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Annu Rev Psychol. 2014;65:333-71. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137.

The psychology of change: self-affirmation and social psychological intervention.

Author information

1
Graduate School of Education, Department of Psychology, and (by courtesy) Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305; email: glc@stanford.edu.

Abstract

People have a basic need to maintain the integrity of the self, a global sense of personal adequacy. Events that threaten self-integrity arouse stress and self-protective defenses that can hamper performance and growth. However, an intervention known as self-affirmation can curb these negative outcomes. Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time. The present review highlights both connections with other disciplines and lessons for a social psychological understanding of intervention and change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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