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The Psychological Record, 1975, 25, 255-264.
Veteran's Administration Center and
University Medical Center
Jackson, Mississippi
Ohio University
Measurement reliability and controlling effects of 3 procedures for
self-monitoring smoking were examined. In Experiment I, subjects
monitored their smoking rates using each recording procedure for 1
week. Results showed continuous recording to be the most reliable
procedure. Self-reports indicated continuous recording to be most
accurate, bothersome to use, and reactive. In Experiment 11 a betweensubject design evaluated the 3 procedures over a 5-week period.
Continuous recording led to pronounced reductions in reported smoking
rate and greater attrition. Reported smoking rates did not significantly
differ at a 6-month follow-up. Results were related to demands imposed by
recording procedures and differing interrecording intervals.
Self-monitoring is a technique in which the subject discriminates
discrete behavioral events and records their occurrence. Initially,
self-monitoring was used to generate data to evaluate the effectiveness of behavior change strategies (Kanfer & Philips, 1970;
Simkins, 1971). The reactive or controlling effects of self-monitoring
were also noted and subsequently utilized as intervention procedures
(see review by Kazdin, 1974; Thoresen & Mahoney, 1974). Thus the
uses of self-monitoring include evaluation andjor treatment. When
self-monitoring is used in treatment evaluation, measurement
reliability is of critical importance. On the other hand, behavior
control is of primary importance when self-monitoring serves as a
Numerous techniques of self-monitoring have been developed.
While these procedures vary on many dimensions, one important
variable may be the schedule of monitoring. Investigations have
employed continuous and intermittent schedules of recording. When
continuous schedules are used (McFall, 1970), the subject is
instructed to record each occurrence of the criterion response.
Another self-monitoring strategy would be to assess continuously the
ongoing behavior but record intermittently its estimated frequency.
For example, recording could occur once per day (Levinson, Shapiro,
, This study was done while the first author was at Ohio University. The authors thank Ms. L.
Vella for her assistance in conducting this research. Reprints may be obtained from either
thefirstauthoratthe Psychology Department, Veteran's Administration Center, Jackson,
Mississippi 39216, or the secondauthor, who is now at the Department of Psychology, Haley
Center, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36830.
Schwartz, & Tursky, 1971) or less than once per week (Schmahl,
Lichtenstein, & Harris, 1972).
The intermittency or recording may affect both reliability
(Simkins, 1971) and the control exerted by self-monitoring.
Procedures that request recording at long intervals permit
occurrence of numerous behaviors that can compete with the
processes involved in self-observation. However, the recording
interval may interact with such factors as response rate and day-today variability in determining reliability. For example, low-rate,
easily discriminated responses, such as homosexual contacts,
probably can be reliably recorded at relatively long interrecording
intervals. However, responses occuring at high, variable rates,
such as smiling or obsessive thoughts, probably require continuous
recording or relatively short interrecording intervals.
The control exerted by self-monitoring may be functionally
related to the intermittency of recording. Mahoney, Moore, Wade, and
Moura (1973) showed that continuous recording of correct responses
du ring academic review increased study time relative to the
recording of every third correct response. Further , recording at
short interrecording intervals can be helpful when self-reward is
used, as the opportunities for consequating occurrences of the
recorded response are increased.
The design of a self-monitoring program must also take into
account the demands involved in recording. A recording procedure
that is time consuming and interferes withconcurrent activities may
not be consistently used by the subject. Such disruptions in selfmonitoring are unlikely to improve either reliability or behavioral
control. Thus both intermittency of recording and the recording
demands are important to the clinical utility of self-monitoring.
This study was designed to assess the measurement reliability,
controlling effects and subjective evaluations of three methods of
self-recording. These procedures were selected to sampie
continuous and intermittent (Le., daily and weekly) recording of
cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking was chosen because it is a
relatively high-rate behavior that has been the target of numerous
treatment interventions (Hunt & Matarazzo, 1973).
Experiment I investigated measurement reliability, short-term
control, and subjective evaluation of the three recording procedu:r:es
utilizing a within-subject analysis. Based on the results of
Experiment I, Experiment 11 was designed to evaluate controlling
effects of the recording procedures during a 5-week treatment period
and at a 6-month follow-up. A between-subject analysis was used.
Volunteers from introductory psychology classes (8 females, 7
males) received course credit for serving as subjects. The selection
criteria was a reported smoking rate ofatleast 15 cigarettes per day.
The mean age of the subjects = 18.67 years, mean years smoked
3.68, and mean estimated baserate 22.68 cigarettes per day.
Recording Procedures
The procedures were chosen to sampie continuous and two
schedules of intermittent recording. The continuous recording
procedure was similar to that used by McFall (1970), the daily
recording similar to the Levinson et al. (1971) procedure, and the
weekly recording procedure approximates the follow-up recording
procedures used by Schmahl et al. (1972).
Continuous recording(CR). Subjects were given a supply of small
cards cut to fit inside the cellophane wrapper on a cigarette package.
Each morning the subjects were to select an unused card and place the
date, their name, and their social security number on it. The
recording procedure involved writing the time they started smoking
each cigarette that day.
Daily recording(DR). In this recording procedure subjects were
instructed to re cord the total number of cigarettes smoked in a given
day. The total for each day was recorded nightly on a small card wi tb
space provided for name, date, and social security number.
Weekly recording (WR). In this recording procedure subjects
were contacted by telephone once a week and were asked to report the
average number of cigarettes smoked per day during the preceding
General Procedure
All subjects attended four half-hour meetings held at 1-week
intervals . During the first meeting subjects were informed they would
be involved in a comparison of three procedures for recording
smoking and were free to smoke as much or as little as they wished.
They were instructed to buy all their cigarettes from the
experimenter, smoke only the cigarettes that had been purchased in
this manner, and bring the remaining cigarettes to the next meeting.
Each subject was then randomly assigned to one of six conditions that
counterbalanced possible orders in which the three recording
procedures could be employed. Subjects purchased a week's supply of
cigarettes (the subjects reported smoking rate plus about 25 %), and
were instructed in the recording procedure for that week.
During each of the next two meetings, subjects tallied unused
cigarettes, purchased another supply of cigarettes, returned data
cards (DR and CR methods), and were instructed in the monitoring
procedure they were to use for the next week. At the final meeting the
subjects completed a questionnaire, returned data cards, and tallied
unused cigarettes.
The reliability of each recording procedure was calculated by
first obtaining the difference between each subject' s mean daily
actual smoking rate [(cigarettes purchased - unused cigarettes) /7]
and his mean daily reported smoking rate (as recorded 'by the
subject). This difference was then divided by the mean daily actual
smoking rate. The resulting proportion was multiplied by 100 and
expressed as percentage of agreement.
An arcsine transformation was performed on the proportional
data to satisfy the assumptions of analysis of variance (Kirk, 1968).
Separate treatment X subject analyses of variance were performed
with weeks as the within factor in one analysis and procedures the
within factor in another analysis. Results indicated that reliabilities
across weeks, independent of the procedures, were not significantly
different (F < 1). However, the reliabilities of the procedures were
significantlydifferent (F = 6.06, df= 2, 28, P <.01). Dunn's Multiple
Comparison Test (p <.05) showed that CR was more reliable than
either WR or DR, which did not significantly differ. The mean
percentages of agreement for the three procedures were:
CR=93.59%, DR=85.77%, WR=87.32%.
Smoking Rate
A treatment X subject analysis of variance, with weeks as the
within factor, showed no significant week-to-week variation (F< 1) in
mean smoking rate (based on cigarettes used). A separate treatment
X subject analysis of variance was performed on reported smoking
rate with recording procedures the within factor. This analysis
showed that the reported smoking rates associated with each
procedure (CR = 20.40, DR = 22.11, WR = 23.80) were not significantly different (F = 2.03, df =2,28, P >.05).
Subjective Evaluation
The results of the postexperiment questionnaire are shown in
Table 1. The ratings in Questions 1 and 2 were subjected to separate
Results of Postexperiment Questionnaire
Recording Procedure
(1.) Rating of accuracy:
1 =Not accurate
7 = Very accurate
(2.) Rating of "hassie":
1= No hassle
7 =Big hassle
(3.) Avoided smoking
because of procedure:
(4.) Increased smoking
because of procedure:
(5.) Best overall procedure:
aOne subject did not answer this question.
treatment X subjectanalyses ofvariance, with recording procedures
the within factor. There was a significant procedures effect in both
Question 1 (F = 51.21, df= 2,28, P <.001) and Question 2 (F = 75.51,
d/=2,28,p <.001). An aposteriori analysis (Tukey's HSD Test) was
performed on the ratings in Questions 1 and 2. The ratings ofthe three
procedures were significantly different (p < .01) on Question 1 and
Question 2. eR was rated as most accurate and involving the most
"hassIe." Table 1 also indicates that on Question 3, 11 of the 15
subjects reported they avoided smoking because of the eR procedure,
while no subjects reported avoiding smoking because of the DR or WR
procedures. As indicated in Question 4, no subject reported increased
smoking because of any recording procedure. Most subjects selected
the DR procedure as the best overall recording procedure, with the
eR procedure being the choice of 2 people (Question 5).
The results of Experiment I indicate that the three recording
procedures differ on reliability and subjective evaluations. The
measurement reliability was higher for continuous recording than
for either daily or weekly recording. While the differences between
reliability estimates were significant, the coefficients obtained were
all above 85 %, which is adequate for the most measurement purposes.
Although subjects were never so informed, they may have been aware
that the reliability of their recording was being assessed. This may
lead to reliabilities that are somewhat higher than those obtained
when subjects are unaware of reliability checks (Lipinski & Nelson,
On the questionnaire eR was evaluated as being most accurate,
most demanding, and also exerting the greatest control on smoking
behavior. Whenasked to take all factors into account (e.g. accuracy,
time required, etc.), the subjects tended to see DR as the best overall
procedure. It is also interesting to note that no subject reported
increased smoking because of a recording procedure.
The similarity in the short-term controlling effect of the three
recording procedures was unexpected. This may mean that all of the
procedures are equally good, or bad, controllers of responding. In
either case the clinical utility, in terms of behavioral control, must be
evaluated over a longer duration. A second experiment was thus
designed to evaluate control of smoking over a 5-week treatment
period and maintenance at a 6-month follow-up.
Volunteers (23 males, 13 females) were recruited from introductory psychology classes to participate in the experiment for
course credit. The selection criteria was the same as in Experiment
I. The mean age of the subjects = 19.20 years, mean years
smoked 3.07, mean estimated baserate 23.31 cigarettes per day.
Recording Procedures
The recording procedures (CR, DR, WR) were the same as in
Experiment I.
General Procedure
Subjects attended one half-hour meeting. They were told that they
would be involved in a 5-week comparison of three recording
procedures and were free to smoke as much or as little as they
wished. Subjects were randomly divided into three groups (CR, DR,
WR). One-way analyses of variance performed on the variables of age,
number of years smoked, number of attempts to quit smoking, and
duration of longest abstinence indicated that the groups were not
significantly different (p> .05). Each group received recording
instructions identical to those used in Experiment I. Subjects in the
DR and CR groups returned completed data cards and obtained unused
cards at a convenient location.
Six months after completion of the 5-week self-monitoring
procedure, all available subjects were contacted by telephone. An
estimate of their current smoking rate was obtained and served as a
follow-up measure.
Attrition was defined as terminating participation in the
experiment prior to its completion (excluding follow-up). No subjects
from either the WR or DR group failed to complete the experimental
procedures. However, three subjects from the CR group dropped out
of the experiment-one during the first week and two during the final
week.' When contacted by telephone, all three subjects cited dissatisfaction with the demands of the continuous recording procedure
as their reason for quitting.
Smoking Rate
The mean reported smoking rate for all three groups is shown in
Figure 1. A two-factor mixed analysis of variance performed on the
estimated baserate and self-monitoring data indicated a significant
groups x trials interaction (F= 5.66, df=10, 160, P<.OOI). Computation of simple main effects (Kirk, 1968) showed that mean
reported smoking rates for the groups were not significantly different
(p< .05) at baserate or Week 1 of self-recording. There were
significant group differences in mean reported smoking rate during
Weeks 2-5. Tukey's HSD test indicated that the mean reported
smoking rate for the CR group was significantly (p < .05) lower than
the mean reported smoking rate for WR group during Weeks 2-5 and
significantly lower than the mean reported smoking rate for the DR
'The smoking rates ofthe two subjects not reporting during Week 5 were estimated using a
least-squares procedure (Kirk, 1968). The alternative of dropping the two subjects from the
analysis leads to more pronounced experimental effects than those reported.
group during Weeks 3-5. The mean reported rates for the WR and DR
groups were significantly different during Week 4 only.
Six out of the nine subjects who completed the five weeks of CR
- - r _ _ - - r - - _ ---~
..- - t - - _ 2
Figure 1. Mean reported smoking rate for the three experimental groups during treatment
andatthe6-monthfollow-up.Baserate and follow-up data were obtained by having subjects
estimate their smoking rate.
reported rates of less than 10 cigarettes per day du ring the final week
ofrecording. Ofthese six subjects, three reported smoking less than
one cigarette per day, and one reported smoking between one and two
cigarettes per day. In contrast, no subjects in either the WR or DR
group reported similar reductions during the final week of recording.
Further , only one of these subjects (DR group) reported smoking less
than 10 cigarettes per day (8.57 cigarettes per day).
At the six month follow-up the mean reported smoking rates for
the three groups (Figure 1) were not significantly different (F <1). Of
the nine sUbjects contacted from the CR group, no subject reported
smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day. Two out of nine subjects from
the DR group reported smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day with
one ofthe two reporting a smoking rate of O. In the WR group five out of
ten subjects reported smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day, with
three of the five reporting complete abstinence.
The results of Experiment 11 show that continuous recording
resulted in a greater reported smoking reduction than the intermittent procedures. This finding is consistent with the greater
controlling effects of continuous monitoring that were observed by
Mahoney et al. (1973). It is important to note that continuous recording
did not produce effects significantly different from the intermittent
procedures until Week 3. These delayed controlling effects indicate
the importance of an extended trial when self-recording is used in the
baseline phase of a self-management program.
There were no significant differences between groups at the sixmonth follow-up. Thus follow-up data do not indicate that the different
recording histories produced differential changes in the contingencies governing smoking during the six-month posttreatment
interval. Self-monitoring does not automatically produce lasting
changes in the environmental events that affect smoking.
There are several possible explanations for the superior
controlling effects of continuous recording. One possible explanation
is related to the demands of the recording procedure. The demands of
recording are important because the recording procedure is imposed
on ongoing behavior. It is expected that as the time and effort
demanded by a recording procedure increase, concurrent behaviors
will be disrupted. This disruption is likely to reduce the opportunities
for a vailable reinforcement ofthe ongoing behavior, thus resulting in
respons~ costduring each recording episode. The subject can avoid
this response cost by decreasing the frequency of the response to be
recorded-in this case smoking. The fact that the subjects evaluated
continuous recording to be more demanding in Experiment land the
finding that continuous recording exerted more control in Experiment
11 are consistent with this possibility. An alternative avoidance tactic
would be for the subjects to discontinue recording. This alternative is
supported by the greater attrition rate associated with continuous
recording in Experiment 11.
Another possible explanation for the superior controlling effects
of continuous recording is related to the increased possibility of
"unprogrammed" consequation by the subject. Continuous recording
increases the number of opportunities for consequation of the
recorded response. This property makes continuous recording
especially useful in self-management programs employing selfreward. Although a self-reward component was not programmed in
conjunction with self-recording in the current study, the subjects may
have nevertheless reinforced decreases in smoking.
In addition to the noted superiority in controlling effects,
continuous recording was also associated with the highest reliability.
Reliability may be related to the interrecording interval. As the
interval between the occurrence and recording of the response is
decreased, there is less opportunity for the occurrence of interfering
events. Although this question has not been researched, short
interrecording intervals would seem to be more critical when a highrate behavior, such as smoking, is monitored. However, intermittent
recording procedures may be appropriate for accurate monitoring of
low-rate behaviors.
In summary, the choice ofa self-monitoring procedure must take
into account both measurement reliability and controlling, or
reactive, effects. In the present investigation, continuous recording
was both the most reliable and exerted the most control. Thus
continuous recording, as it was the most controlling, should be used
with caution when a nonreactive measure is required. On the other
hand, continuous recording may be the monitoring procedure of
choice in clinical self-management, as it provides both reliable da ta
and maximal opportunities for self-reinforcement.
HUNT, W. A., &MATARAZZO, J. D. 1973. Three years later: Recent developments in the
experimental modification of smoking behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology,
81, 107-114.
KANFER, F., & PIDLLIPS, J. 1970. Learning foundations of behavior therapy. New York:
KAZDIN, A. E. 1974. Self-monitoring and behavior change. In M. J. Mahoney & C. E.
Thoresen (Eds.), Self-control: Power to the person. Monterey: Brooks/Cole.
KIRK, R. E.1968. Experimental design: Procedures for the behavioral sciences. Belmont:
LEVINSON, B. L., SHAPffiO, D., SCHWARTZ, G. E., & TURSKY, B. 1971. Smoking
elimination by gradual reduction. Behavior Therapy, 2, 477-487.
LIPINSKI, D., & NELSON, R. 1974. The reactivity and unreliability of self-recording.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 118-123.
MAHONEY, M. J., MOORE, B. S., WADE, T. C., & MOURA, N. G. M. 1973. Effects of
continuous and intermittent self-monitoring on academic behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41, 65~9.
McFALL, R. M. 1970. Effects of self-monitoring on normal smoking behavior.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 35, 135-142.
SCHMAHL, D. P., LICHTENSTEIN, E., & HARRIS, D. E. 1972. Successful treatment of
habitual smokers with warm, smoky air and rapid smoking. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 38, 105-111.
SIMKINS, L. 1971. The reliability of self-recorded behaviors. Behavior Therapy, 2, 83~7.
THORESEN, C. E., & MAHONEY, M. J. 1974. Behavioral self-control. New York: Holt,
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