Section 56
Chapter 55,700

Self-affirmation moderates effects of unrealistic optimism and pessimism on reactions to tailored risk feedback

Klein, W.M.P.; Lipkus, I.M.; Scholl, S.M.; McQueen, A.; Cerully, J.L.; Harris, P.R.

Psychology and Health 25(10): 1195-1208


ISSN/ISBN: 0887-0446
PMID: 20204982
DOI: 10.1080/08870440903261970
Accession: 055699372

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We examined whether self-affirmation would facilitate intentions to engage in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among individuals who were off-schedule for CRC screening and who were categorised as unrealistically optimistic, realistic or unrealistically pessimistic about their CRC risk. All participants received tailored risk feedback; in addition, one group received threatening social comparison information regarding their risk factors, a second received this information after a self-affirmation exercise and a third was a no-treatment control. When participants were unrealistically optimistic about their CRC risk (determined by comparing their perceived comparative risk to calculations from a risk algorithm), they expressed greater interest in screening if they were self-affirmed (relative to controls). Non-affirmed unrealistic optimists expressed lower interest relative to controls, suggesting that they were responding defensively. Realistic participants and unrealistically pessimistic participants who were self-affirmed expressed relatively less interest in CRC screening, suggesting that self-affirmation can be helpful or hurtful depending on the accuracy of one's risk perceptions.

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