Adolescent cognitive egocentrism and health behaviour: Personal fables among young adult smokers and the trans-theoretical model

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Diane McKillop

Second Advisor

Dr David Ryder


The personal fables, a component of adolescent cognitive egocentrism (El kind, 1967) that has been associated with unhealthy and high-risk behaviour participation, was examined in relation to cigarette smoking. To extend the current understanding of the Trans-Theoretical Model (TTM) of behaviour change (Prochaska, 1991; Prochaska, DiCiemente, & Norcross, 1992; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997), the study additionally examined whether the personal fables inhibit forward Stage of Change (SOC) movement. A short-form of the Stages of Change Scale, the Fagerstrom Test of Nicotine Dependence and the New Personal Fable Scale (NPFS) were administered to 249 first-year university students aged between 17 and 25 (M= 19.09-years, SD = 2.00). Data were analysed using profile analyses. The first analysis examined NPFS scores between 48 current smokers, 42 ex-smokers, and 157 individuals who had never smoked. Contrary to prediction, ex-smokers had higher NPFS scores (both overall, and on the invulnerability and omnipotence subscales) than individuals who have never smoked. The second analysis was conducted between 17 pre-contemplative and 27 contemplative smokers'. As predicted, pre-contemplators had higher overall NPFS scores than contemplators suggesting that the personal fables could obstruct forward SOC movement; however, no differences in the NPFS subscale scores were observed. These results suggest that personal fable ideation might both facilitate and inhibit smoking cessation. As such, current conceptualisations of this construct might need to be re-examined. The results of the second analysis might explain the ineffectiveness of interventions targeting adolescents that are underpinned by the TTM. However, methodological limitations such as the cross-sectional design and sample characteristics obfuscated conclusions. As such, prospective research was recommended.

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