Jon D. Kassel, Ph.D.


Co-Director of Clinical Training

University of Pittsburgh, 1995

Research Interests:
drugs' effects on emotion and attention
individual differences in drug dependence
cognitive models of depression, anxiety, and drug use
ecological momentary assessment

To learn more about Dr. Kassel’s research, please visit our research website, the Substance Abuse Research Laboratory (SURL).

(Regarding the pdf files for APA articles below, These articles may not exactly replicate the final versions published in the APA journal. As such, they are not the copies of record. Please visit for more information.)

At the broadest level of inquiry, I am interested in the study of substance use and abuse. Questions that are of interest to me include: Who uses drugs? What are their motives for engaging in substance use? What are the acute and long-term effects of drugs on individuals? What are the individual differences that predispose persons to use drugs? What factors come into play when a person crosses the line from substance use to substance dependence? What effects do drugs have on emotional response systems? How do drugs affect cognitive processing and is this relevant to understanding people's motives for using them?

Clearly, the questions above speak to a broad range of issues that are not easily encapsulated under one broad research umbrella. Yet, I do see a connection among these apparently diverse areas of inquiry. Simply stated, I am interested in the processes that govern the phenomenological experience of drug use. As such, I am intrigued by intrapersonal, as well as contextual, factors that impact on substance use. Though current (and popular) conceptualizations of substance abuse assert that addiction is a property of drugs, I am more interested in examining the extent to which addiction is a property of individuals.

Drug's Effects on Emotion, and Attention

One line of research in which we are currently involved examines the effect of drugs (e.g., nicotine, alcohol) on emotional response systems. Although almost all smokers attribute their smoking, in great part, to its alleged ability to alleviate negative mood and calm them down, laboratory studies investigating this phenomenon have yielded inconsistent findings: some studies demonstrate that smoking alleviates anxiety, while almost as many others find that smoking has no effect. Our recent work in this area has explored the notion that nicotine's effects on mood are indirect, mediated by its direct effects on attentional processing. As such, we are also interested in studying the effects of smoking on various parameters of attentional processing. Correspondingly, we just completed a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the separate and combined effects of alcohol and nicotine on emotional responding and attentional processing. This study also incorporated psychophysiological indices of mood (e.g., startle eyeblink response).

Most recently, we received funding from the National Cancer Institute to examine the effects of cigarette smoking on emotional response among adolescent smokers. (This RO1 grant is part of a Program Project Grant, led by Robin Mermelstein, Ph.D.; see for a detailed overview of the Program Project.) Here, we are interested in ascertaining whether individual differences in smoking’s effects on emotional responsivity are predictive of subsequent smoking behavior over a period of several years. The hypothesis being tested is that those adolescents for whom smoking serves to reduce negative affect may be more vulnerable to progressing on to nicotine dependence.

Representative Publications:
Kassel, J.D., Greenstein, J.E., Evatt, D.P., Wardle, M.C., Yates, M.C., Veilleux, J.C., Eissenberg, T. (in press). Smoking topography in response to denicotinized and high-yield nicotine cigarettes in adolescent smokers. Journal of Adolescent Health. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., & Hankin, B.L. (in press). Smoking and depression. In Steptoe, A. (Ed.), Depression and physical illness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kassel, J.D., Weinstein, S., Skitch, S., Veilleux, J., & Mermelstein, R. (2005). Etiology of substance abuse. In Hankin, B.L. & Abela, J.R.Z. (Eds.), Development of psychopathology: A vulnerability-stress perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Buckley, T.C., Holohan, D.R., Mozley, S.L., Walsh, K., & Kassel, J.D. (in press). The effect of nicotine and attention allocation on physiological and self-report measures of induced anxiety in PTSD: A double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Unrod, M., Kassel, J.D., & Robinson, M. (2004). Effects of smoking, distraction, and gender on pain perception. Behavioral Medicine, 30, 133-139. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., Stroud, L., & Patronis, C. (2003). Smoking, nicotine, and stress: Correlation, causation, and context across stages of smoking. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 270-304. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., & Unrod, M. (2000). Smoking, anxiety, and attention: Support for the role of nicotine in attentionally mediated anxiolysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 161-166. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D. (2000). Smoking and stress: Correlation, causation, and context. American Psychologist, 55, 1155-1156. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., & Shiffman, S. (1997). Attentional mediation of cigarette smoking's effect on anxiety. Health Psychology, 16, 359-368. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D. (1997). Smoking and attention: A review and reformulation of the stimulus-filter hypothesis. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 451-478. (pdf file)

Individual Differences in Drug Dependence

Another line of research that is of interest to us concerns individual differences in drug dependence. That is, which individuals becomes addicted to drugs and which do not? This is a particularly fascinating issue with respect to cigarette smokers, almost all of whom meet criteria for nicotine dependence. Yet, there is an anomalous group of smokers (dubbed chippers) who, although they have smoked with regularity for years, have escaped the clutches of nicotine dependence. Who are these people and how have they pulled off what seems like the impossible? We have studies these individuals for a number of years and are beginning to answer some of these difficult questions. The extent to which our understanding of drug dependence differs as a function of cultural factors is also emerging as an important topic of study. We are also interested in eventually examining cultural factors that promote and protect from the development of nicotine dependence.

Representative Publications:
Kassel, J.D., & Ross., H. (2005). The role of training in global tobacco control research. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 946-949. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Kassel, J.D., Gwaltney, C.J., & McCarghue, D. (2005). Relapse prevention for smoking cessation. In Marlatt, G.A. & Donovan, D. (Eds)., Relapse prevention (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Lando, H.A., Borrelli, B., Klein, L.C., Waverley, L.P., Stillman, F.A., Kassel, J.D., & Warner, K.E. (2005). The landscape in global tobacco control research: A guide to gaining a foothold. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 939-945. (pdf file)

Buckley, T.C., Mozley, S.L., Holohan, D., Walsh, K., Beckham, J., & Kassel, J.D. (2005). A psychometric evaluation of the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence in psychiatric smokers. Addictive Behaviors, 30, 1029 - 1033. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., & Shiffman, S. (2004). Psychology and smoking behavior. In Goodman, J. (Ed.), Tobacco: Scribner’s turning points in history. Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scriber’s Sons.

Kassel, J.D. & Yates, M.. (2002). Is there a role for assessment in smoking cessation treatment? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 91-104. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D. (2000). Are adolescent smokers addicted to nicotine? The suitability of the nicotine dependence construct as applied to adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Use, 9, 27-49. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Paty, J.A., Gnys, M., Kassel, J.D., & Elash, C. (1995). Nicotine withdrawal in chippers and regular smokers: Subjective and cognitive effects. Health Psychology, 14, 301-309. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., Shiffman, S., Gnys, M., Paty, J., & Zettler-Segal, M. (1994). Psychosocial and personality differences in chippers and regular smokers. Addictive Behaviors, 19, 565-575. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Paty, J., Kassel, J.D., Gnys, M., & Zettler-Segal, M. (1994). Smoking behavior and smoking history of tobacco chippers. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2, 126-142. (pdf file)

Cognitive Models of Depression, Anxiety, and Drug Use

In recent years, we have also become interested in applying cognitive models of depression and anxiety (e.g., schema accessibility theory, self-awareness theory) to understanding substance use. For example, the question of whether working internal models of the self and others, as reflected in Bowlby's attachment theory, are related to drug use is of great interest to us. We are also presently looking at the extent to which negative mood regulation expectancies - the degree to which an individuals holds expectations that they can successfully cope with negative mood - might play a role in problem drinking among college students. A related line of research that we envision embarking on soon is use an experimental psychopathology approach to the study of how various drugs influence individuals' direction of attention. For example, does alcohol consumption affect the kind of stimuli (reinforcing vs. punishing) a person attends to?

Representative Publications:
Kassel, J.D., Bornovalova, M., & Mehta, N. (in press). Generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation predict change in anxiety and depression among college students. Behaviour Research and Therapy. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., Wardle, M.C., & Roberts J.E. (in press). Adult attachment security and college student substance use. Addictive Behaviors. (pdf file)

Hankin, B.L., Kassel, J.D., & Abela, J.R.Z. (2005). Adult attachment styles and specificity of emotional distress: Prospective investigations of cognitive risk and interpersonal stress generation as mediating mechanisms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 136-151. (pdf file)

Kassel, J.D., Jackson, S.I., & Unrod, M. (2000). Generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation and problem drinking among college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 332-340.

Roberts, J. & Kassel, J.D. (1997). Labile self-esteem, stressful life events, and depressive symptoms: Prospective data testing a model of vulnerability. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 21, 569-589. (pdf file)

Roberts, J.E., & Kassel, J.D. (1996). Mood-state dependence in cognitive vulnerability to depression: The roles of positive and negative affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 20, 1-12. (pdf file)

Roberts, J.E., Gotlib, I.H., & Kassel, J.D. (1996). Adult attachment styles and symptoms of depression: The mediating role of dysfunctional attitudes and low self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 310-320. (pdf file).

Ecological Momentary Assessment

Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) is a methodology that allows for naturalistic, real-time assessment of behavior in the field. Subject's carry a small, palm-top computer on which they answer a series of questions (e.g., How sad are you right now?, with a 4-choice response option) and enter their answers into the computer. Although we are not presently running any such studies, we have used this methodology in the past to assess the situational antecedents and consequences of lapse episodes in smokers attempting to quit smoking. EMA can utilize up to three different types of self-monitoring strategies: (1) event-contingent monitoring, in which subjects respond make computer entries just before and/or just after a designated "event" (e.g., smoking a cigarette), (2) time-contingent monitoring, in which subjects make entries at specified times of the day, and (3) beeper-contingent monitoring, in which subjects are randomly "beeped" by the computer and asked to respond at that moment.

Representative Publications:
Shiffman, S., Gwaltney, C.J., Balabanis, M.H., Lieu, K.S., Paty, J.A., Kassel, J.D., Hickcox, M., & Gnys, M. (2002). Immediate antecedents of cigarette smoking: An analysis from Ecological Momentary Assessment. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 531-545. (pdf file)

Gwaltney, C.J., Shiffman, S., Paty, J.A., Liu, K.S., Kassel, J.D., Gnys, M., & Hickcox, M. (2002). Using self-efficacy judgments to predict characteristics of lapses to smoking. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 1140-1149 . (pdf file)

Gwaltney, C.J., Shiffman, S., Norman, G.J., Paty, J.A., Kassel, J.D., Gnys, M., Hickox, M., Waters, A.J., & Balabanis, M.H. (2001). Does smoking abstinence self-efficacy vary across situations? Identifying context-specificity with the relapse situation efficacy questionnaire. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 516-52. (pdf file)

Kamarck, T.W., Shiffman, S.M., Smithline, L., Goodie, J.L., Thompson, H.S., Ituarte, P.H.G., Jong, J.Y.K., Pro, V., Paty, J.A., Kassel, J.D., Gnys, M., & Perz, W. (1998). The diary of ambulatory behavioral states: A new approach to the assessment of psychosocial influences on ambulatory cardiovascular activity. In D. Krantz and A. Baum (Eds.), Perspectives in behavioral medicine: Technology and methodology in behavioral medicine. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Shiffman, S., Hickcox, M., Paty, J.A., Gnys, M., Richards, T., & Kassel, J.D. (1997). Individual differences in the context of smoking lapse episodes. Addictive Behaviors, 22, 797-811. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Hufford, M., Hickcox, M., Paty, J.A., Gnys, M., Kassel, J.D., & Perz, W. (1997). Remember that? A comparison of real-time vs. retrospective recall of smoking lapses. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 292-300. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Engberg, J.B., Paty, J.A., Perz, W.G., Gnys, M., Kassel, J.D., & Hickcox, M. (1997). A day at a time: Predicting smoking lapse from daily urge. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 104-116. (pdf file)

Shiffman, S., Paty, J.A., Gnys, M., Kassel, J.D., & Hickcox, M. (1996). First lapses to smoking: Within-subjects analysis of real time reports. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 366-379. (pdf file)

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