|The current study examines two psychological experiences—rationalization and regret—among smokers from Thailand and Malaysia and the behavioural impact of rationalization and regret—intentions to quit. More specifically, the goals of the study were not only to examine differences between the two countries in rationalization, regret, and intentions to quit, but also to explain country differences by using the psychological constructs of social norms and the cultural psychological construct of collectivism (via mediation and moderation analyses). The data were from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Southeast Asia Survey, a cohort survey of representative samples of adult smokers in Thailand (N = 2,000) and Malaysia (N = 2,006). The ITC Southeast Asia Survey was conducted January-March 2005. Participants were asked to complete a 40-minute in-person survey.
Thai smokers were more likely to have intentions to quit smoking than Malaysian smokers and this country difference in quit intentions were, in part, explained by differences between the two countries in rationalization and regret, and that those variables, in turn, were significant predictors of quit intentions. Next, the psychological constructs of social norms and the cultural psychology construct of collectivism were used to explain the country differences in rationalization and regret. Thai smokers were more traditional and family oriented (high in vertical collectivism) and thus, they are more sensitive about their social norm and familial rejections about smoking. This, in part, contributed the fact that Thai smokers, compared to Malaysian smokers, were less likely to rationalize and more likely to regret smoking. Finally, the predictive models of rationalization and regret for Thailand and Malaysia were mirror images.
The current study points to the importance of understanding smokers’ rationalization and regret. Rationalization and regret are negatively related and have an important implication for future behaviour. Different social norms against smoking, which are shaped by different regulatory environments and cultural values, contribute to the country differences in rationalization and regret. This study has demonstrated the benefits/value of psychological constructs in understanding smoking in a cultural context.