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Health Psychol. 2017 Apr;36(4):380-391. doi: 10.1037/hea0000460. Epub 2017 Feb 16.

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

Author information

1
Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch, Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute.
2
Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute.
3
ehavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

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.

METHOD:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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

PMID:
28206787
PMCID:
PMC5400361
DOI:
10.1037/hea0000460
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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