Section 61
Chapter 60,234

Self-affirmation increases defensiveness toward health risk information among those experiencing negative emotions: Results from two national samples

Ferrer, R.A.; Klein, W.M.P.; Graff, K.A.

Health Psychology Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology American Psychological Association 36(4): 380-391


ISSN/ISBN: 0278-6133
PMID: 28206787
Accession: 060233877

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Self-affirmation can promote health behavior change and yield long-term improvements in health via its effect on receptiveness to risk information in behavior change interventions. Across 2 studies, we examined whether the emotional state of the person presented with health risk information moderates self-affirmation effectiveness. Data were collected from 2 U.S. national samples (n = 652, n = 448) via GfK, an Internet-based survey company. Female alcohol consumers completed an emotion induction (fear, anger, or neutral). They then completed a standard self-affirmation (or no-affirmation) essay-writing task, and subsequently received a health message linking alcohol to breast cancer. There was a significant interaction between emotion and self-affirmation conditions, such that self-affirmation reduced the specificity of health behavior change plans among those experiencing negative emotion (Study 1: B = -0.55, p < .001), with consistent but not significant effects for anger (Study 2: B = -.47, p = .069. Among self-affirmed participants, essays were rated as significantly less self-affirming for individuals experiencing negative emotion (or anger). Mediation analyses limited to the self-affirmation condition revealed an indirect effect of negative emotion condition on health behavior change plan specificity via self-affirmation ratings of essay content in Study 1: β = 0.04, p = .041. The salutary effect of self-affirmation on plan specificity was reversed with negative emotion. These findings may be attributed to disruption of the self-affirmation process. Individuals who enter interventions using self-affirmation in a negative emotion state may be less prepared to benefit from other intervention content, and may even be less likely to change health behaviors as a result of the intervention. (PsycINFO Database Record

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