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Why Does Writing About Important Values Reduce Defensiveness? Self-Affirmation and the Role of Positive Other-Directed Feelings

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Abstract

Previous research has repeatedly shown that writing about an important value, compared with writing about an unimportant value, reduces defensiveness in response to self-threatening information, but has not identified why. Study 1 showed that participants who wrote about an important value reported more positive other-directed feelings, such as love and connection, than participants who wrote about an unimportant value. Study 2 replicated this effect, and showed that loving and connected feelings, but not positive or negative self-directed feelings, completely accounted for the effect of a values-affirmation manipulation on smokers' acceptance of information indicating that smoking harms health. These studies, in concert with previous research, suggest that values affirmation reduces defensiveness via self-transcendence, rather than self-integrity (i.e., self-worth or self-images).
VALUES AND DEFENSIVENESS
Running head: VALUES AND DEFENSIVENESS
Why Does Writing about Important Values Reduce Defensiveness?
Self-Affirmation and the Role of Positive, Other-Directed Feelings
Jennifer Crocker and Yu Niiya
University of Michigan
Dominik Mischkowski
Universitaet Konstanz
January 8, 2008
Word count: 4000 words
Citation: Crocker, J., Niiya, Y., & Mischkowski, D. (2008). Why does writing about important values
reduce defensiveness? Self-affirmation and the role of positive, other-directed feelings.
Psychological Science, 19, 740-747. PMID 18727791
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VALUES AND DEFENSIVENESS
Abstract
Previous research has repeatedly shown that writing about an important value reduces
defensiveness in response to self-threatening information, compared to writing about an
unimportant value, but has not identified why. Study 1 showed that writing about an important
value induces positive, other-directed feelings such as love and connection compared to a control
condition. Study 2 replicated this effect, and showed that loving and connected feelings, but not
positive or negative self-directed feelings, completely accounted for the effect of the values-
affirmation manipulation on smokers’ acceptance of information that smoking harms health.
These studies, in concert with previous research, suggest that values-affirmation reduces
defensiveness via transcending the self, rather than self-integrity (i.e., self-worth or self-images).
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Few people appreciate learning that their beliefs are erroneous, their behavior contradicts
their values, or they have caused harm to themselves or others. Although such information can
be useful, even life-saving, it can also threaten people’s views of themselves as rational,
intelligent, responsible, healthy, or caring. Consequently, people often respond defensively to
such self-threatening information (Cooper & Fazio, 1984; Pronin, Gilovich, & Ross, 2004).
Defensiveness presents a major obstacle to persuasive communications intended to encourage
people to change harmful or unhealthy behaviors. For example, caffeine drinkers are more likely
than non-caffeine drinkers to find fault with studies indicating a link between caffeine
consumption and health problems (e.g., Harris & Napper, 2005; Sherman, Nelson, & Steele,
2000).
Self-affirmation manipulations reliably reduce defensiveness (see McQueen & Klein,
2006; Sherman & Cohen, 2006; Steele, 1988, for reviews). In particular, people are more
accepting of self-threatening information when they have the opportunity to write a few
sentences about their most important value (see McQueen & Klein, 2006, for a review). In these
studies, people rank-order a list of values (e.g., politics, business, art, religion, social
relationships) from most important to least important, and either write a paragraph about their
most important value and why it is important to them (experimental condition), or their least
important value and why it might be important to others (control condition). Under the guise of
an unrelated study, participants read a bogus article describing negative health consequences of a
behavior such as drinking coffee. Such studies have repeatedly found that people for whom the
information is self-relevant (e.g., coffee drinkers) are less defensive (i.e., less skeptical, less
critical of research methods, more likely to believe conclusions are justified by the data) when
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they have first had the opportunity to write about their most important value, compared to when
they write about their least important value (see Sherman & Cohen, 2006, for a review).
According to self-affirmation theory, writing about values reduces defensiveness because
it affirms the integrity of the self. Steele proposed that people have a self-system that maintains
self-integrity, “a phenomenal experience of the self—self-conceptions and self-images—as
adaptively and morally adequate, that is, as competent, good, coherent, unitary, stable, capable of
free choice, capable of controlling important outcomes, and so on” (Sherman & Cohen, 2006;
Steele, 1988). As Sherman and Cohen (2006, p. 185) note, “When this image of self-integrity is
threatened, people respond in such a way as to restore self-worth.” Thus, according to self-
affirmation theory, reflecting on important values reduces defensiveness by boosting self-images
or self-worth.
Although many studies have demonstrated that writing about important values reduces
defensiveness, research has not identified the mechanism for this effect. Most attempts to
identify a mechanism have focused on how people feel or think about themselves. The most
direct prediction from self-affirmation theory suggests that writing about important values raises
state self-esteem. However, to date research has provided little support for self-esteem as a
mediating mechanism (McQueen & Klein, 2006; Sherman & Cohen, 2006). Studies that include
state self-esteem as a dependent measure have not found that writing about important values
boosts self-esteem relative to the control condition (Schmeichel & Martens, 2005). One study
found that compared to participants in a control condition, people who wrote about an important
value rated the initial letters in their names favorably, indicating higher implicit self-esteem
(Koole, Smeets, van Knippenberg, & Dijksterhuis, 1999). However, preference for initial name
letters did not account for the effect of writing about important values on rumination.
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Self-affirmation theory also predicts that affirming important values boosts self-images or
self-concepts. Steele and Liu (1983) found that participants who completed a scale of economic
and political values rated themselves more positively if this value was important to them than if
it was not important. They did not, however, show that the effects of values scales on self-
concept ratings accounted for the effect of affirming values, nor did they rule out the possibility
that participants with political-economic values had more positive self-concepts before the
values-affirmation.
Other researchers have proposed that self-affirmation manipulations such as writing
about or reflecting on an important value reduce negative affect or increase positive affect
(Tesser, 2000). Several studies have tested this hypothesis; results have been mixed, with some
studies showing no effect on mood, and others showing a positive effect (McQueen & Klein,
2006; Sherman & Cohen, 2006). Evidence that mood or affect mediates the effect of self-
affirmation manipulations is scarce; one study found that a measure of implicit positive affect
explained the effects of values-affirmation on reduced rumination (Koole et al., 1999).
Overall, research clearly indicates that affirming important values reduces defensiveness;
how it does so remains an open question (McQueen & Klein, 2006; Sherman & Cohen, 2006).
Transcending the Self
We propose that reflecting and writing about important values enables people to
transcend concerns about self-image or self-worth. Writing essays about important values
reminds people what they care about beyond themselves, and may induce positive, other-directed
feelings such as love. Consistent with the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions
(Fredrickson, 1998), love may elevate and inspire people to improve, opening them to potentially
threatening information (Haidt, 2003). Previous research on self-affirmation has not typically
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examined other-directed positive emotions, because self-affirmation theory focuses on self-
image and self-feelings as the central construct.
This line of reasoning suggests two possible patterns of emotion and reduced
defensiveness in values-affirmation studies. First, writing about an important value may reduce
defensiveness only among people who rank relationships as their most important value.
Visualizing a close positive relationship induces warm affect for the relational partner, leading to
increased interest in negative feedback about intellectual ability (Kumashiro & Sedikides, 2005).
Alternatively, writing about any important value may remind people of what they care about
beyond themselves, leading to feelings of love, and enabling them to transcend the self, reducing
defensiveness.
Study 1
Study 1 manipulated values affirmation and examined whether it induces positive other-
directed emotion, especially love.
Method
Participants
College students (N =139; 56% female, 71% White, 14% Asian) received partial credit for
their introductory psychology class for participating in a “study of values.” Their age ranged from
17 to 21 (M = 18.8, SD = .76).
Procedure
In groups of up to 10, participants gave their informed consent. Following the procedures
of Sherman, Nelson, and Steele (2000), participants ranked 6 values (business, art/music/theater,
social life/relationships, science /pursuit of knowledge, religion /morality, government /politics)
in order of their personal importance. Next, participants opened an envelope containing either the
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values-affirmation instruction or the control instruction, ensuring that the experimenter was
unaware of participants’ condition. In the values-affirmation condition (n = 69), participants
wrote about their most important value and why it was important and meaningful to them for 10
min while those in the control condition (n = 70) wrote about their least important value and why
it might be important and meaningful to others.
Participants rated how much they felt 18 feelings when writing their essay on a scale
from 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely). The items are presented in Figure 1. At the conclusion of the
study, participants were debriefed.
Results and Discussion
Social life was ranked by 41% of males and 54% of females as their most important
value, followed by religion (23% of males, 31% of females) and science (15% of males, 6% of
females). Business, art, or government was chosen by 21% of males and 10% of females. Figure
1 presents the mean difference between the values-affirmation and control conditions for each
feeling, in order of the size of the difference. The two conditions differed for all feelings except
selfish, scared, sad, confused, and angry, ts > 2.5, prep > .95, ds > 0.45. All six positive other-
directed feelings (love, giving, empathic, connected, sympathy, and grateful) showed large
differences between conditions. As expected, ratings of love differed most between the two
conditions, with a mean difference of 2.26, t(135) = 11.47, prep > .99, d = 1.97. Males (2.34,
t(58) = 8.76, prep > .99, d = 2.25) and females (2.15, t(75) = 7.95, prep > .99, d = 1.80) both
showed this effect (F(1, 133) = .22, n.s., for the interaction).
Values-affirmation had greater effect on love than on a composite of general positive
feelings (proud, content, and joyful, α= .84). A 2 (Emotion) X 2 (Values-Affirmation Condition)
repeated-measures ANOVA showed a significant Emotion X Values-Affirmation interaction,
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F(1, 135) = 35.35, prep > .99, η2p = .21, indicating that the values-affirmations had greater effect
on love (Maffirmation = 4.24, SD = 1.04 vs. Mcontrol = 1.97, SD = 1.26) than on general positive
feelings (Maffirmation = 3.74, SD = .82 vs. Mcontrol = 2.48, SD = .99).
Love was greater in the values-affirmation than in the control condition regardless of
which value participants ranked as most important (see Table 1). A 2 (Values-Affirmation
Condition) X 4 (Value Choice) ANOVA showed significant main effects on love for values-
affirmation (F(1, 129) = 87.95, prep > .99, η2p = 0.41) and value choice (F(3, 129) = 7.74, prep > .
99, η2p = 0.15) but no interaction (F(1, 129) = .59, n.s.).
In sum, Study 1 showed that writing about an important value compared to writing about
an unimportant value increases feelings of love, regardless of which value participants rated as
most important, and for both males and females. These results contrast with previous research
showing inconsistent effects of values-affirmation on positive affect (e.g., Cohen, Aronson, &
Steele, 2000), which did not examine positive other-directed feelings. In Study 2, we tested the
hypothesis that love accounts for increased acceptance of potentially self-threatening
information.
Study 2
Method
Participants
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One-hundred two undergraduate students (97% female; 70% White; 12% Asian)
participated in exchange for partial credit toward their introductory psychology class. Their age
ranged from 17 to 22 (M = 18.6, SD = 1.02).
Procedure
At the beginning of the term, participants completed a mass testing survey, which
included a question about smoking (“How many cigarettes do you typically smoke each day?”).
Seventy one nonsmokers and 25 smokers (at least one cigarette per day) were recruited for a
subsequent study (the unequal ns reflect the low number of smokers in the sample). Four
additional participants who did not complete the prescreening survey were included in the non-
smokers group and two in the smoking group based on their responses to the post-test survey,
resulting in an n of 75 non-smokers and 27 smokers. The experimenter was blind to participants’
smoking status.
Upon arrival, participants signed consent forms for two short ostensibly unrelated studies,
one on values and the other on how people evaluate scientific articles. In the first study,
participants completed the values-affirmation manipulation as in Study 1, and rated how much
writing the essay made them feel: loving, connected, empathic, humble, proud, vulnerable,
admirable, superior, powerful, strong, in control, victimized, ashamed, inferior, powerless, weak,
and out of control.
For “the second study,” participants read a 3-page fake research article describing the
increased risk of developing abdominal aortic aneurysm among smokers (Dillard, McCaul, &
Randall, 2006, May). After reading the article, participants answered questions adapted from
Sherman et al. (2000) assessing acceptance of the research findings: 1) How skeptical were you
when reading the article? (1 = Not at all; 9 = To a great extent; reverse scored); 2) To what
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extent do you think that the conclusion of the article was justified on the basis of existing
research findings? (1 = not at all; 9 = very well justified). Participants then rated the author’s
description of the findings of the study (1 = distorted and misleading to 9 = well done and quite
accurate), and rated the methods and results of the study (1= very weak to 9 = very strong). We
averaged these items to create an acceptance measure (α = .89). Finally, participants indicated
how many cigarettes they typically smoke per day, were probed for suspicion, and were fully
debriefed.
Results and Discussion
Most participants (66.7%) chose social life as their most important value, followed by
religion (14.7%) and science (11.8%). Less than 3% chose each of the other values (business, art,
and government).
Emotions
Consistent with Study 1, values-affirmed participants reported significantly greater
positive affect (see Figure 2). Again, the effect was largest for ratings of loving, which differed
so much between the two conditions (2.66, t(100) = 13.85, prep > .99, d = 2.77) that the
distribution violated assumptions of normality (see Figure 3).
To examine whether values-affirmation influenced feeling loving more than self-directed
positive feelings, we conducted a 2 (Emotion) X 2 (Values-Affirmation Condition) repeated-
measures ANOVA, comparing loving with a composite score of proud, strong, and admirable (α
= .85). Consistent with Study 1, participants reported feeling loving (M = 2.99, SD = 1.64) more
than self-directed positive feelings (M = 2.74, SD = 1.20; F(1,100) = 4.20, prep >.88, η2p = .04).
Moreover, the Emotion X Condition interaction was significant, F(1, 100) = 19.40, prep >.99, η2p
= .16, indicating that values affirmation had greater impact on loving (Maffirmation = 4.24, SD = 1.05
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vs. Mcontrol = 1.58, SD = .87) than on self-directed positive feelings (Maffirmation = 3.54, SD = .83 vs.
Mcontrol = 1.84, SD = .88).
Acceptance of the Article
Consistent with past findings, writing about one’s most important value increased
acceptance of the article, but only among smokers, for whom the article was relevant (Values-
Affirmation X Relevance, F(1, 98) = 4.35, prep = .89, η2p = 0.04). Neither main effect was
significant, Fs(1, 98) < 2.2. Values-affirmed smokers were more accepting (M = 6.80, SD =
1.23) than control smokers (M = 5.45, SD = 1.84; t(25) = 2.11, prep = .89, d = 0.86); among non-
smokers, acceptance did not differ by condition (Maffirmation = 6.02, SD = 1.44; Mcontrol = 6.26; SD =
1.94, t(73) = .60, n.s.). In the affirmation condition, smokers (M = 6.80, SD = 1.23) were more
accepting than nonsmokers (M = 6.02, SD = 1.44), although this difference was not robust (t(52)
= -1.63, prep = .81, d = 0.58).
Mediation
Loving explained the relationship between values-affirmation and acceptance of
threatening information for smokers but not for non-smokers. As shown in Figure 4, values-
affirmation significantly increased loving among smokers, which in turn, predicted an increase in
acceptance. When loving was included in the regression analysis predicting acceptance, the
effect of values-affirmation on acceptance dropped from β = .39 to β = .11, n.s., indicating that
loving fully accounts for the effect of values-affirmation on acceptance of threatening
information.
We also tested each other emotion as a mediator among smokers. Values affirmed
smokers felt more connected (β = .74, prep > .99, r2 = .54) and proud (β = .40, prep = .89, r2 = .16)
and marginally more strong (β = .35, prep = .85, r2 = .12) and less ashamed (β = -.35, prep = .84, r2
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= .12). Feeling connected predicted acceptance (β = .41, prep = .89, r2 = .17). Controlling for
feeling connected, values affirmation no longer predicted acceptance (β decreased from .39, prep
= .89 to .14, prep = .40), indicating mediation. The other emotions did not predict acceptance (preps
< .79). Thus, only loving and connected explained the effect of values affirmation on reduced
defensiveness among smokers. When entered into a regression equation predicting acceptance, a
composite of loving and connected predicted acceptance, β = .49, prep >.95, f2 = 0.32, and reduced
the effect of the manipulation on acceptance to β = -.01, prep = .11, f2 = 0, suggesting complete
mediation.
Non-smokers showed no evidence of mediation. Although values-affirmed non-smokers
felt more loving, connected, empathic, humble, vulnerable, powerful, strong, proud, admirable,
and in control (βs > .30, prep > .99, r2 > .12) and less inferior, powerless, and ashamed (βs < -.20,
prep > .88, r2 > .06), values-affirmation did not increase acceptance among non-smokers (β = -.07,
n.s.). None of the emotions predicted nonsmokers’ acceptance of the article (-.22 < βs < .07, n.s.)
except out-of-control, which significantly predicted reduced acceptance (β = -.26, prep > .88, r2
=.07) but was not affected by values affirmation.
In sum, Study 2 again showed that writing about important values leads to feeling loving
more than writing about unimportant values. Study 2 also replicated findings from previous
research that the values-affirmation manipulation increases acceptance of self-threatening
information. Most important, Study 2 showed that feeling loving explained the effect of the
values-affirmation manipulation on defensiveness. Feeling connected, but none of the other
emotions, also mediated the effect.
General Discussion
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Previous research has repeatedly shown that writing about an important value reduces
defensiveness, compared to writing about an unimportant value (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). Self-
affirmation theory claims that writing about important values affirms the integrity of the self,
boosting self-images (Steele & Liu, 1983) or self-worth (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). However,
this research has failed to establish why this manipulation reduces defensiveness.
The results of Study 1 demonstrated that people who write about their most important
value report feeling more love than people who write about their least important value,
regardless of which value they ranked as most important. Although women reported feeling more
love, the values affirmation manipulation increased feelings of love in men as much as women.
Study 2 replicated the effect of the values-affirmation manipulation on feeling loving and
showed that this effect was stronger than for several other positive emotions, including self-
relevant emotions such as pride. Furthermore, Study 2 showed that loving accounted for the
effect of the values-affirmation manipulation on smokers’ acceptance of information that
smoking harms health, although these correlational analyses cannot demonstrate causality. Of
the other emotions included, only feeling connected also explained the effect of values-
affirmation on acceptance.
These findings call for a reconsideration of self-affirmation theory. Like looking for a lost
item under the lamppost because that is where the light is, self-affirmation researchers have
looked for mediators in self-feelings, because that is the focus of self-affirmation theory. Our
results, in concert with previous research, suggest that values-affirmation manipulates feelings of
caring for other people or things, rather than self-worth or self-images.
We suggest that values-affirmation manipulations remind participants of people or things
they care about beyond themselves that are more important than temporary feelings of self-
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threat; rather than affirming the self, values affirmation enables people to transcend the self.
Feeling loving may shift people’s goals from preserving positive self-images to concern for
something that transcends the self. The strong effects on love raise the possibility that values-
affirmation manipulations affect care-giving hormones, such as oxytocin (Gonzaga, Turner,
Keltner, Campos, & Altemus, 2006). Intranasal administration of oxytocin increases trust (Zak,
Kurzban, & Matzner, 2004) and down-regulates stress-related cortisol responses (Henry &
Wang, 1998). The present results raise the intriguing possibility that oxytocin may increase
learning of potentially self-threatening information. Down-regulation of the fight-or-flight
response affords people the ability to protect others from threats (Brown & Brown, 2006; Henry
& Wang, 1998). Such a system may enable people to process potentially threatening information
rather than protecting the self.
Although writing about an important value induced feelings of love in men as well as
women in Study 1, Study 2 did not include enough men to test whether gender moderates the
effect of self-affirmation on acceptance of self-threatening information. Feelings of love might
foster acceptance more in women than men, due to sex differences in oxytocin processing
(Carter, 2007). Future research should examine gender differences.
Self-affirmation theory has spawned a host of manipulations, from values-affirmation to
positive feedback, each of which presumably affirms self-integrity (McQueen & Klein, 2006).
Different manipulations may operate via different mechanisms. The present studies identify one
mediator of a values-affirmation manipulation in the health domain, feeling love; the operative
mechanism may differ by the specific manipulation and the domain of the threat. Future research
identifying the active ingredients of various self-affirmation manipulations will ultimately
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advance self-affirmation theory, clarifying why these different manipulations reduce
defensiveness.
Conclusion
Self-affirmation theory has inspired a great deal of research showing that self-affirmation
can reduce defensive responses to self-threatening information. Yet, the mechanism for this
effect has been mysterious. The present studies show that one self-affirmation manipulation,
writing about important values, has powerful effects on positive, other-directed feelings,
especially love, and these feelings can explain why this manipulation reduces defensiveness.
These studies raise the prospect that reminding people what they love or care about may enable
people to transcend the self and foster learning under difficult circumstances.
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Authors’ Note
Jennifer Crocker and Yu Niiya, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.
Dominik Mischkowski, Universitaet Konstanz, Germany.
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant R01 MH58869
and National Science Foundation grant BCS-0446567.
We thank Tim Cavnar, Andrew Crocker, Paul Denning, and Victoria Parver for
assistance with data collection and entry, and David Sherman, Geoffrey Cohen, and Steven
Spencer for their comments on a previous draft.
Address correspondence to Jennifer Crocker, Department of Psychology, University of
Michigan, 530 Church St., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, jcrocker@umich.edu
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Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations of Love by Value-Affirmation Conditions and by Value Choice
Most Important Values M SD M SD t
Social life 4.43 .73 2.10 1.37
t(64) = 8.87, p
rep
> .99
Religion/ morality 4.63 .50 2.23 1.38
t(36) = 6.63, p
rep
> .99
Science/ pursuit of knowledge 2.67 1.51 1.14 .38
t(11) = 2.60, p
rep
> .90
Other (business, art/ music,
government / politics)
3.78 1.48 1.64 .81
t(18) = 4.12, p
rep
> .99
Values- Affirmation
Control
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Figure Captions
Figure 1. Ratings of feelings by condition in Study 1. Vertical lines depict standard errors of the
means.
Figure 2. Ratings of feelings by condition in Study 2. Vertical lines depict standard errors of the
means.
Figure 3. Distribution of loving by condition in Study 2.
Figure 4. Mediation model among smokers: Loving mediating the effect of values-affirmation
on acceptance of threatening information. Note. Statistics in parentheses represent beta
coefficients and prep values when values-affirmation and loving are entered simultaneously in the
regression.
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VALUES AND DEFENSIVENESS
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... While some have suggested that the effects of self-affirmation (decreased defensive processing, increased message acceptance and behavioral changes) are due to increases in participants' self-esteem, others have argued that it is due to increases in participants' interpersonal feelings. 46,[49][50][51] For example, self-affirmation manipulations may increase participants' feelings of self-esteem or interpersonal feelings, thereby bolstering their sense of self-worth and allowing them to engage in more open processing of a health-risk message. In order to investigate this, Armitage and Rowe (2011) tested adolescent girls' self-esteem and interpersonal feelings after taking part in the KQ or a control condition. ...
... However, the study is limited as it did not test the effect of the manipulations on behavior. Crocker et al. (2008) also reported raised interpersonal feelings in participants after completing the VE compared to control participants. Moreover, increased feelings of 'lovingness' and 'connectedness' fully accounted for smokers' message acceptance following exposure to the VE. ...
... Moreover, increased feelings of 'lovingness' and 'connectedness' fully accounted for smokers' message acceptance following exposure to the VE. 51 Other studies 52 have found self-esteem to be raised as a result of SAM (Kindness essay), but only in those with low self-esteem at baseline. This may be because individuals with higher self-esteem may already feel good about themselves, and do not need to be 'manipulated' by a self-affirmation task. ...
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Objective: Self-affirmation theory proposes that defensive processing prevents people from accepting health-risk messages, which may explain university students’ dismissal of risk-information about binge drinking. SA-interventions may encourage non-biased processing of such information through impacting on interpersonal feelings and self-esteem. This study compared two self-affirmation manipulations on interpersonal feelings, self-esteem, message processing, message acceptance and subsequent alcohol consumption. Participants: UK university students (N = 454). Methods: Participants were randomly allocated to one of three conditions (Self-affirmation Implementation Intention, Kindness Questionnaire, Control) before reading health-risk information about binge drinking. This was followed by measures of interpersonal feelings, self-esteem, message processing, acceptance and behavioral intentions. Alcohol consumption was assessed one week later. Results: The self-affirmation manipulations had non-significant effects on all outcome variables. Conclusion: Consistent with previous research, the results indicate that self-affirmation interventions are not effective for reducing alcohol consumption in university students.
... Some authors have concluded that reflecting on important values may reduce defensive ness and increase receptivity to potentially self-threatening information, at least in part due to creating a sense of self-transcendence (Crocker et al., 2008). For example, stu dents who engaged in values writing tasks, compared to a control task, exhibited signifi cantly lower rates of state paranoia when exposed to a paranoia-induction task (Evans et al., 2019;Kingston & Ellett, 2014). ...
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While the concept of values has been present in behavioral traditions dating back to Skinner, the analysis of the role of values in modern contextual behavioral science (CBS) in relation to motivation has greatly expanded over the past 30 years. In particular, values are important in a modern understanding of the role of human language in modifying how reinforcement occurs. This chapter outlines values work as a foundational component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and analyzes values through a CBS and Relational Frame Theory lens. The chapter includes an extensive review of the empirical literature on the role of values in ACT and discusses values measures commonly used in CBS research and clinical practice. Finally, we offer recommendations for next steps to expand our understanding of this essential process.
... love, empathic, connected, grateful) and positive feelings directed toward themselves (e.g. pride, feeling strong, in control) in their daily lives, respectively (Crocker, Niiya, & Mischkowski, 2008;Thomaes, Bushman, de Castro, & Reijntjes, 2012). Negative emotional attitude toward the body was measured by the nine-item Body Emotions Scale (Sakson-Obada, 2009). ...
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Background: There are relatively few studies to address mental health implications of self-affirming, especially across groups experiencing a chronic health condition. In this study, short- and longer-term effects of a brief self-affirmation intervention framed in terms of implementation intentions (if-then plans with self-affirming cognitions; S-AII) were evaluated against an active control group (non-affirming implementation intentions; N-AII), matched to the target condition, and mere goal intention condition (a non-active control) in adults with psoriasis. The three pre-registered primary outcomes captured depression, anxiety, and well-being. Methods: Adults with psoriasis (N = 175; Mage = 36.53, S.D. = 11.52) were randomized into S-AII, N-AII, or control. Participants' mental health outcomes were assessed prior to randomization (at baseline), at week 2 (post-intervention), and at a 1-month follow-up. Results: Linear mixed models were used and results were reported on the intention-to-treat principle. Analyses revealed that S-AII exerted significantly more improvement in the course of well-being (ds > 0.25), depressive symptoms (ds > −0.40), and anxiety (ds > −0.45) than the N-AII and control group at 2-week post-intervention. Though the differences between groups faded at 1-month follow-up, the within-group changes over time for S-AII in all mental health outcomes remained significant. Conclusions: Brief and low-intensity S-AII intervention exerted in the short-term a considerable impact on mental health outcomes. The S-AII shows promising results as a relevant public mental health strategy for enhancing well-being and reducing psychological distress. Future studies could consider whether these effects can be further enhanced with booster interventions.
... Alternatively, it is possible that OSCE and module examinations, which are conducted face-to-face, are more influenced by the way in which a candidate comes across personally, particularly when interacting with patients, both real and simulated. There is evidence that self-affirmations can increase positive feelings towards others such as love and connection (Crocker, Niiya & Mischkowski, 2008). It could be argued that students who reaffirmed their self-worth were better at presenting themselves, and better at relating to patients in those face-to-face examinations, and this was reflected in their scoresa hypothesis that would also require objective testing. ...
Conference Paper
This thesis presents a series of quantitative and qualitative studies, conducted with UCL Medical School students, which aimed to answer the following research question “which factors influence the differential performance of ethnic minority and white medical students in undergraduate assessments?” The first study explored the reliability and magnitude of the ethnic gap in attainment in Years 1, 2 and 3 of UCL Medical School. Results showed that within Years the gap was reliable over time, and that it was greatest in Year 3. The second study used a questionnaire to examine whether demographic and psychological factors might mediate the statistical relationship between ethnic group and academic performance in Years 1 and 3. Results showed that whilst ethnic minority and white students did differ on a number of factors, this could not explain the entire ethnic gap in attainment. The third study used qualitative interview methods to explore how Year 3 medical students and clinical teachers perceived the factors affecting learning and teaching in the clinical environment, including ethnic group. Results showed that some clinical teachers and students held negative stereotypical views about Asian medical students. Three hypothesised mechanisms for how stereotyping might negatively affect Asian students’ performance in examinations were generated. The fourth study experimentally investigated the effects of a social intervention designed to minimise some of the hypothesised negative effects of stereotyping and narrow the ethnic gap in attainment. Results showed that the intervention did narrow the gap as predicted, but unexpectedly this was due to changed performance in the white rather than the ethnic minority group. These results are discussed in terms of the complexities of research involving ethnicity and the multi-factorial nature of the influences on learning at medical school.
... Alternatively, participants did not experience enough threat for spontaneous self-affirmation to have a salubrious effect. Self-affirmation can also increase people's positive feelings toward others (Crocker et al., 2008) and participants' sympathy for other women when reading the misinformation message may have also interfered with their inclination to evaluate the merits of the article. Future research should examine these possibilities. ...
Article
We investigated the effectiveness of inoculation and self-affirmation interventions in neutralizing effects of health misinformation. Women ( N=854) recruited via Prolific were randomly assigned to self-affirm (or not) and read an inoculation (versus control) message detailing five common attributes of misinformation. All participants read an article with misinformation about breast cancer screening and reported their reactions to the article. The inoculation (vs control) message reduced the negative effects of misinformation, as assessed by resistance-related measures, attitudes, and intentions. Experimentally induced self-affirmation did not show protective effects against misinformation, but the inoculation intervention was stronger among participants higher in self-reported spontaneous self-affirmation.
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Pressure to perform is ubiquitous in organizations. Although performance pressure produces beneficial outcomes, it can also encourage cheating behavior. However, removing performance pressure altogether to reduce cheating is not only impractical but also eliminates pressure's benefits. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to test an intervention to counteract some of the most harmful effects of performance pressure. Specifically, I integrate the self-protection model of workplace cheating (Mitchell et al., 2018) with self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) to demonstrate the utility of a personal values affirmation intervention to short-circuit the direct and indirect effects of performance pressure on cheating through anger and self-serving cognitions. Two experiments were used to test these predictions. In a lab experiment, when people affirmed core personal values, the effect of performance pressure on cheating was neutralized; as was pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating via anger. A field experiment replicated the intervention's ability to mitigate performance pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating through anger. Altogether, this work provides a useful approach for combating the harmful effects of performance pressure and offers several theoretical and practical implications. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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Prosocial behavior is critical to address global social, environmental, and economic challenges. Yet humans often do not act with the benefit of others in mind, especially when those others are distant and unknown. We suggest that a failure to act prosocially may stem in part from cognitive and emotional capacity limitations. Hence an intervention that reduces worry about the self and thereby increases available resources may foster prosociality. Starting from self‐affirmation theory which posits that affirming the self can establish self‐integrity, we propose that a values affirmation intervention can motivate prosociality through fostering positive self‐regard. Across two studies we find that, compared to control participants, affirmed participants display greater willingness to volunteer time and exhibit increased actual prosocial behavior by completing an unpaid study and donating real money to charity. As hypothesized, increases in positive self‐regard mediate the effect of values affirmation on prosocial behavioral intentions as well as behavior.
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Boredom is a prevalent experience linked to negative psychological and societal outcomes. Building on the notion that sources of meaning in life can mitigate boredom, we examined whether self-compassion would be negatively associated with boredom and if the elevated sense of meaning in life that self-compassion offers could explain this negative association. We tested these predictions at the trait and state level using self-report measures with three correlational studies. In Study 1 (N = 49), we tested if trait self-compassion correlated negatively with boredom proneness. In Study 2 (N = 265), we investigated if this relationship was mediated by presence of meaning in life. In Study 3 (N = 191), we tested this mediational model for state experiences of self-compassion, meaning in life, and boredom. Correlational (SPSS) and mediational analyses (AMOS) were used to analyze the data. Consistently, we found negative associations between self-compassion and boredom (Studies 1–3). Further, presence of meaning in life mediated the relationship between self-compassion and boredom (Study 2 and 3). We conclude that self-compassionate individuals are less likely to experience boredom and this is partially explained by greater meaning presence. The findings add to the notion that self-compassion, offering meaning in life, reduces boredom.
Article
Purpose Public relations practitioners worldwide are attempting to enhance the overall organization–stakeholder relationships by applying strategic communication techniques and skills to corporate social responsibility (CSR) management and communications. In this light, drawing on the prosocial motivation literature, this paper aims to investigate consumers’ implicit and explicit motivations for prosocial behavior, and how these two motivations interact to affect consumers’ willingness to contribute to CSR activities. Second, through the lens of sensemaking theory, this study evaluates the influence of successful prosocial behavior engagement on consumers’ perceptions of both self and companies’ prosocial identities, CSR authenticity and company evaluations. Design/methodology/approach This study adopts a dictator game experiment with 2 × 2 factorial design to gauge consumers’ prosocial behavioral response toward companies’ CSR communication with implicit and explicit motivations and to examine its effect on company evaluation. Findings In all, the results of this study suggest that implicit motivation, i.e. self-affirmation intervention, in CSR communication will cause consumers to donate more money to CSR programs; whereas explicit motivation does not exert an effect on consumers’ prosocial behavior. In addition, such donation will trigger consumers’ prosocial sensemaking process and lead to strong identification with the company, positive attitudes and behavioral intentions toward the company. Originality/value This study aims to build a consumer- and social cause-oriented CSR communication model, which maximizes the impact of CSR investments on consumer relationship building, business bottom line and social causes.
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Purpose: Donation behavior plays a crucial role in promoting the development of social and public welfare undertakings. Previous studies have partially explored the influencing factors of donation behavior, but effective methods for boosting individuals' donation behavior remain unclear. Based on the resource dependence theory, our present study further explored the promoting effect of self-affirmation on the relationship among cost, self-control, and individuals' donation behavior, and provided empirical basis for boosting individuals' donation behavior. Methods: In preliminary experiment, Carlson's real donation paradigm was conducted to examine the effect of cost on individuals' donation behavior. In experiment 1, we examined the effects of cost, self-control ability, and self-affirmation on individuals' donation behavior. Individuals with high or low self-control ability were assigned to complete the experimental induction of self-affirmation or non-affirmation. Subsequently, all participants completed the donation task under three cost conditions same as preliminary experiment. In experiment 2, we examined the effects of cost, self-control resource, and self-affirmation on individuals' donation behavior. Participants were assigned to complete the different Stroop task to induce the state of self-control resource exhaustion or non-exhaustion. Then, they completed the priming of self-affirmation or non-affirmation same as experiment 1. Finally, all participants completed the donation task under three cost conditions same as preliminary experiment. Results: The results of preliminary experiment indicated that participants engaged in more donation behavior under low- and medium-cost conditions compared with high-cost condition. The results of experiment 1 demonstrated that self-affirmation exerted a promoting effect on the donation behavior for individuals with low self-control ability under low-, medium-, and high-cost conditions. The results of experiment 2 demonstrated that self-affirmation promoted the donation behavior of individuals with self-control resource exhaustion under low-, medium-, and high-cost conditions. Conclusion: Self-affirmation could promote the donation behavior of individuals with low self-control ability and those with self-control resource exhaustion, whether donation's cost was high or low. Self-affirmation plays a crucial role for boosting individuals' donation behavior.
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A case is made for the substitutability of self-esteem regulation mechanisms such as cognitive dissonance reduction, self-affirmation, and social comparison. For example, a threat to self via cognitive dissonance might be reduced by a favorable social comparison outcome. To explain substitution, it is suggested that self-esteem regulation mechanisms inevitably produce affect and that affect mediates the completion of various self-esteem regulation processes. Substitution can be understood in terms of the transfer of affect from the initial mechanism to the substitute mechanism. To be effective, this transfer must take place without awareness. Also discussed is the substitution of self-esteem regulation mechanisms across different self-domains versus within a single self-domain. Current theory suggests that substitution might be more effective within domain; that is, it is better to bolster the aspect of self that has been threatened. It is suggested here, however, that substitution across self-domain might be relatively resilient and easier to accomplish.
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The objective of this systematic review of studies using self-affirmation manipulations was to identify research gaps and provide information to guide future research. We describe study characteristics, categories of manipulations, and report effects on various dependent variables. Our search strategies yielded 47 eligible articles (69 studies). Manipulations varied by affirmation domain (values or personal characteristics), attainment (participant- or investigator-identified), and procedure (scale, essay, feedback, etc.). Most dependent variables were cognitive. Strong effects of self-affirmation were found for attitudes and persuasion/bias, but future work is needed for variables with mixed results including risk cognitions, intentions, and behavior. Suggestions and considerations for future research involving self-affirmation manipulations are discussed.
Article
Self-affirmation processes are being activated by information that threatens the perceived adequacy or integrity of the self and as running their course until this perception is restored through explanation, rationalization, and/or action. The purpose of these constant explanations (and rationalizations) is to maintain a phenomenal experience of the self-self-conceptions and images as adaptively and morally adequate—that is, as competent, good, coherent, unitary, stable, capable of free choice, capable of controlling important outcomes, and so on. The research reported in this chapter focuses on the way people cope with the implications of threat to their self-regard rather than on the way they cope with the threat itself. This chapter analyzes the way coping processes restore self-regard rather than the way they address the provoking threat itself.
Article
Two studies demonstrate that self-image maintenance processes affect the acceptance of personally relevant health messages. Participants who completed a self-affirmation were less defensive and more accepting of health information. In Study 1, female participants (high vs. low relevance) read an article linking caffeine consumption to breast cancer. High-relevance women rejected the information more than did low-relevance women; however, affirmed high-relevance women accepted the information and intended to change their behavior accordingly. In Study 2, sexually active participants viewed an AIDS educational video; affirmed participants saw themselves at greater risk for HIV and purchased condoms more often than did nonaffirmed participants. Results suggest that health messages can threaten an individual’s self-image and that self-affirming techniques can increase the effectiveness of health information and lead to positive health behaviors.
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People often cling to beliefs even in the face of disconfirming evidence and interpret ambiguous information in a manner that bolsters strongly held attitudes. The authors tested a motivational account suggesting that these defensive reactions would be ameliorated by an affirmation of an alternative source of self-worth. Consistent with this interpretation, participants were more persuaded by evidence impugning their views toward capital punishment when they were self-affirmed than when they were not (Studies 1 and 2). Affirmed participants also proved more critical of an advocate whose arguments confirmed their views on abortion and less confident in their own attitudes regarding that issue than did unaffirmed participants (Study 3). Results suggest that assimilation bias and resistance to persuasion are mediated, in part, by identity-maintenance motivations.
Article
Drawing from self-affirmation theory (C. M. Steele, 1988) and L. L. Martin and A. Tesser's (1989, 1996) theory of ruminative thinking, the authors hypothesized that people stop ruminating about a frustrated goal when they can affirm an important aspect of the self. In 3 experiments participants were given failure feedback on an alleged IQ test. Failure feedback led to increased rumination (i.e., accessibility of goal-related thoughts) compared with no-failure conditions (Studies 1 and 2). Rumination was reduced when participants could self-affirm after failure (Studies 1 and 2) or before failure (Study 3). In Study 3, self-affirmation led to increased positive affect on a disguised mood test and more positive name letter evaluations. Moreover, the obtained increase in positive affect mediated the effect of self-affumation on rumination. It is concluded that self-affirmation may be an effective way to stop ruminative thinking. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Tested the hypothesis that an experience that simply affirms a valued aspect of the self can eliminate dissonance and its accompanying cognitive changes. Three experiments were conducted using the conventional forced-compliance procedure. In Study 1, some of the 76 college student Ss were allowed to affirm an important, self-relevant value (by completing a self-relevant value scale) immediately after having written unrelated dissonant essays and prior to recording their attitudes on the postmeasure. Other Ss underwent an identical procedure but were selected so that the value affirmed by the scale was not part of their self-concept. The value scale eliminated dissonance-reducing attitude change among Ss for whom it was self-relevant but not among Ss for whom it was not self-relevant. This occurred even though the value scale could not resolve or reduce the objective importance of the dissonance-provoking inconsistency. Study 2, conducted with 24 Ss with a strong economic and political value orientation, showed that the self-affirmation effect was strong enough to prevent the reinstatement of dissonance. Study 3, testing generalizability with 24 Ss, replicated the effect by using a different attitude issue, a different value for affirmation, and a different measure of dissonance reduction. Results imply that a need for psychological consistency is not part of dissonance motivation and that salient, self-affirming cognitions may help objectify reactions to self-threatening information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
In this article we present an evolutionary theory of altruism-Selective Investment Theory (SIT). The essence of SIT is that human social bonds evolved as overarching, emotion regulating mechanisms designed to promote reliable, high-cost altruism among individuals who depend on one another for survival and reproduction (e.g., offspring, mates, coalition members). We view the social bond as a dynamic memory complex, with cognitive, affective, and neurohormonal features. When activated, this complex works to minimize self versus other motivational conflicts associated with altruistic decision making. Our proposal that social bonds evolved because they promoted giving away (as opposed to getting) valuable resources represents a departure from traditional wisdom, and has important implications for interpreting and investigating close relationship phenomena.
Chapter
This chapter provides an overview of self-affirmation theory. Self-affirmation theory asserts that the overall goal of the self-system is to protect an image of its self-integrity, of its moral and adaptive adequacy. When this image of self-integrity is threatened, people respond in such a way as to restore self-worth. The chapter illustrates how self-affirmation affects not only people's cognitive responses to threatening information and events, but also their physiological adaptations and actual behavior. It examines the ways in which self-affirmations reduce threats to the self at the collective level, such as when people confront threatening information about their groups. It reviews factors that qualify or limit the effectiveness of self-affirmations, including situations where affirmations backfire, and lead to greater defensiveness and discrimination. The chapter discusses the connection of self-affirmations theory to other motivational theories of self-defense and reviews relevant theoretical and empirical advances. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of self-affirmations theory for interpersonal relationships and coping.