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



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).
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
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).
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
Study 1
Study 1 manipulated values affirmation and examined whether it induces positive other-
directed emotion, especially love.
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).
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
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,
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
Study 2
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).
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
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
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).
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
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).
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
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
= .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
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
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-
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
advance self-affirmation theory, clarifying why these different manipulations reduce
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,
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
> .99
Religion/ morality 4.63 .50 2.23 1.38
t(36) = 6.63, p
> .99
Science/ pursuit of knowledge 2.67 1.51 1.14 .38
t(11) = 2.60, p
> .90
Other (business, art/ music,
government / politics)
3.78 1.48 1.64 .81
t(18) = 4.12, p
> .99
Values- Affirmation
Figure Captions
Figure 1. Ratings of feelings by condition in Study 1. Vertical lines depict standard errors of the
Figure 2. Ratings of feelings by condition in Study 2. Vertical lines depict standard errors of the
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
... The intervention was based on social identity and self-regulation theories (Markus & Nurius, 1986;Oyserman, 2007), self-affirmation theory (Čehajić-Clancy et al., 2011;Badea & Sherman, 2019;Crocker, Niiya, & Mischkowski, 2008) and the MAPS model of metacognition and regulation (Frazier Schwartz & Metcalfe, 2021). In particular, the design of the present study was built on the study of Crocker et al. (2008) which shows that reflecting on and writing about important values reminds people about things they care about that transcend the self and may trigger positive other-directed feelings whilst reducing defensiveness to potentially controversial/threatening/hostile information. ...
... The intervention was based on social identity and self-regulation theories (Markus & Nurius, 1986;Oyserman, 2007), self-affirmation theory (Čehajić-Clancy et al., 2011;Badea & Sherman, 2019;Crocker, Niiya, & Mischkowski, 2008) and the MAPS model of metacognition and regulation (Frazier Schwartz & Metcalfe, 2021). In particular, the design of the present study was built on the study of Crocker et al. (2008) which shows that reflecting on and writing about important values reminds people about things they care about that transcend the self and may trigger positive other-directed feelings whilst reducing defensiveness to potentially controversial/threatening/hostile information. ...
Technical Report
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The present deliverable addresses a study conducted within the impact acceleration project phase, which investigates AI education for professionals working with AI design and development. The deliverable describes the work, which focuses on promoting AI Ethics through workshops aiming to support consideration of multiple values (e.g. privacy; individual, societal, and environmental wellbeing) when designing smart information systems (SIS) to ensure development of ethical SIS. In particular, three 3-hour workshops were organized, where participants were engaged in scenario-based discussions and reflective activities. The underlying hypothesis was that engagement in group discussion and self-reflection on one’s own values and of whether values have been considered during the AI design process, will promote higher self-awareness and self-regulation, and will support value-based AI design. Through this short exploratory research study, SHERPA aimed to better understand how professionals working with AI design and development approach their everyday tasks in the context of ethical values, and to help identify the needs and dynamics of a better provision of AI ethics education.
... In the self-system, the way people view themselves motivates them to behave in a certain way. Self-affirmation can enhance the clarity of an individual's self-concept by emphasizing their values, principles, and standards, or by emphasizing their positive traits (such as kind and moral), but both can enhance an individual's self-integrity (Crocker et al., 2008;Cohen and Sherman, 2014). Self-integrity is a sense of efficacy, which is an individual's perception of their ability to control important outcomes. ...
... Self-integrity is a sense of efficacy, which is an individual's perception of their ability to control important outcomes. This can help enhance an individual's sense of self-worth, thus further promoting altruistic behavior (Crocker et al., 2008). Furthermore, self-affirmation has been shown to promote greater empathy and compassion toward others, which are critical components of altruistic behavior (Exline and Zell, 2009). ...
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Introduction The current study aimed to explore the relationship between family function and adolescent altruistic behavior, as well as the mediating effects of self-affirmation and psychological resilience in this relationship. Methods A survey was conducted on 972 high school students in Guangdong Province using the Family APGAR, GHQSense of Adequacy, Chinese version of Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, and Altruistic Behavior Scale. Results Results found that the score of psychological resilience of males was significantly higher than that of females, but the score of altruistic behavior was significantly lower than that of females. Family function had a positive predictive effect on altruistic behavior. Psychological resilience played a mediating role between family function and altruistic behavior. Self-affirmation and psychological resilience played chain mediating roles between family function and altruistic behavior. Discussion This study indicated that family care is crucial for the development of adolescent altruistic behavior, and that it can promote the development of altruistic behavior through the enhancement of self-affirmation and psychological resilience.
... Experimental evidence also links values with emotions and well-being. People who affirm their (most important) values report more positive emotions (Crocker et al., 2008) and lower stress levels (Creswell et al., 2005). However, most value-affirmation experiments have not tested whether the effect is moderated by value type. ...
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Objective: We investigate for the first time in a 9-day diary study whether fulfilling one’s values predicts well-being or whether well-being predicts value fulfillment over time. Background: The empirical associations between the importance of human values to individuals’ and their well-being are typically weak and inconsistent. More recently, value fulfilment (i.e., acting in line with one’s values) was shown to be more strongly correlated with well-being. Method: The present research goes beyond past research by integrating work from clinical, personality, and social psychology to model associations between value fulfilment and positive and negative aspects of well-being over time. Results: Across a nine-day diary study involving 1,434 observations (N = 184), we found that people who were able to fulfil their self-direction values reported more positive well-being on the next day, and those who fulfilled their hedonism values reported less negative well-being on the next day. Conversely, people who reported more positive well-being were more able to fulfil their achievement, stimulation, and self-direction values on the next day, and those who reported more negative well-being were less able to fulfil their achievement values. Importantly, these effects were consistent across three countries/regions (EU-UK, India, Türkiye), the importance people attributed to values, period of the week, and their pre-study well-being. Conclusion: These results help to understand fundamental interconnections between values and well-being, while also having relevance for clinical practice.
... SFL starts by defining leadership as being "proactive in the face of a challenge," providing a metric of success that is difficult to misattribute. Next, participants identify their values and think of times when their actions reflected those values, which closely matches exercises in the self-affirmation literature (e.g., Crocker, Niiya, and Mischkowski (2008), Shnabel et al. (2013)). Such exercises offer "unconditional sources of integrity, often from social relationships" (Cohen and Sherman (2014)). ...
... Therefore, self-affirmation has been widely concerned because it can help individuals cope with threats [22]. This means that when an individual encounters a threat, he/she maintains self-integrity by affirming his/her self-worth in fields unrelated to the threat; that is, he/she believes that he/she is good on the whole: morally noble and socially adapted [23]. However, when this "good person" image is threatened, his response is often to restore his self-worth to maintain his integrity, that is, to make up for the defects of his B-side with the advantages of his A-side so as to rebalance the self-system. ...
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One of the purposes for superiors to abuse subordinates is to obtain a positive response from subordinates by conveying a negative attitude. However, abusive behavior cannot guarantee positive behaviors due to the differences in subordinates’ characteristics, such as feedback seeking. Based on the conservation of resources (COR) theory, this study explores the relationship between abusive supervision by superiors and feedback seeking by subordinates in East Asian cultures. Questionnaires were collected from multiple time points and multiple sources. Datum analysis was performed on 318 paired questionnaires between employees and direct supervisors. The results showed that: (1) Employees’ perceived face threat has a mediating effect on the relationship between abusive supervision and feedback seeking. (2) Self-affirmation of subordinates positively moderates the relationship between abusive supervision and perceived face threat. (3) Self-handicapping of subordinates positively moderates the relationship between perceived face threat and feedback seeking. This not only explains the mechanism of perceived face threat in the influence of abusive supervision on employees’ feedback-seeking behavior, but also reveals the boundary effect of employees’ self-affirmation and self-handicapping characteristics in it, which expands the theoretical explanation framework of the influence of abusive supervision on employees’ feedback-seeking behavior and also provides new ideas for managers to better implement management in the organization.
... Self-affirmation allows individuals to expand their working self-concept via reminders of other self-attributes (Critcher & Dunning, 2014;Steele, 1988), social identities (Rydell, McConnell, & Beilock, 2009), and values (Miyake et al., 2010) that are important to the self. Affirming the self reduces defensiveness, increases people's receptiveness to threatening information (Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Sherman, Nelson, & Steele, 2000), and activates positive, other-directed feelings, such as love and connection, which prompts individuals to transcend the self and self-esteem concerns (Crocker, Niiya, & Mischkowski, 2008). ...
Social psychologists have long been interested in studying the effects of threat on physiology, affect, cognition, and behavior. However, researchers have traditionally examined threat at the level of individuals, relationships, or groups, rather than studying commonalities that exist across these levels. In this chapter, we propose that social evaluative threat – the real, imagined, or potential experience of being negatively evaluated – can occur at the level of the individual self, as a relational partner, or as a group member. Individual, relational, and collective selves are not always distinct entities, but are flexible and can overlap with one another. Across these levels, individuals differ in the degree to which they perceive and respond to social evaluative threat, depending on their psychological distance from the threat and expectations and motivation to detect threat. When people perceive a threat to any of these levels, they respond by engaging in behaviors reflecting approach or avoidance motivation. Overall, our model encourages researchers to assess key moderators of threat, examine threats at different levels of the self, and consider how experiences of threat at one level may impact other levels. By highlighting the flexibility of the self, researchers can test interventions that change threat cues in the environment, attenuate perceptions of threat, or help people cope with threat.
This paper describes a process evaluation of a ‘wise’ intervention that took place in six acute care units in two medical-surgical teaching hospitals in the United States during 2016–2017. ‘Wise’ interventions are short, inexpensive interventions that depend on triggering specific psychological mechanisms to achieve behaviour change. This study sought to increase the hand hygiene compliance (HHC) rates before entering a patient’s room among nurses. The intervention centred on the use of threat to professional identity to prompt improved HHC. Through questionnaires administered to intervention participants and the implementation facilitator, together with independent observation of intervention delivery, we examined whether the steps in the Theory of Change occurred as expected. We found that aspects of the implementation—including mode of delivery, use of incentives, and how nurses were recruited and complied with the intervention—affected reach and likely effectiveness. While components of the intervention’s mechanisms of impact—such as the element of surprise—were successful, they ultimately did not translate into performance of the target behaviour. Performance was also not affected by use of an implementation intention as repeated performance of HHC over years of being a nurse has likely already established well-ingrained practices. Context did have an effect; the safety culture of the units, the involvement of the Nurse Managers, the level of accountability for HHC in each unit, and the hospitals themselves all influenced levels of engagement. These conclusions should have implications for those interested in the applicability of ‘wise’ interventions and those seeking to improve HHC in hospitals.
Because the ongoing COVID‐19 pandemic has introduced significant stressors to people's lives, more research on self‐directed strategies to cope with pandemic‐related stress is needed. In the current longitudinal experiment ( N = 614), we investigated the emotional benefits of two self‐directed strategies—belonging affirmation and recalling kindness—during the Delta (October 2021) and Omicron (February 2022) waves of the pandemic. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three activity conditions (belonging affirmation, recalling kindness, or control), which they performed weekly for 4 weeks. Contrary to our pre‐registered hypothesis, belonging affirmation and recalling kindness did not promote greater well‐being overall; however, belonging affirmation led to well‐being improvements indirectly via increases in positive emotions. Furthermore, the benefits of belonging affirmation were moderated by pandemic wave. That is, during the Omicron wave, but not the Delta wave, belonging affirmation led to improved life satisfaction, positive emotions, and connectedness, decreased loneliness and negative emotions, and marginally reduced perceived stress and anxiety. These results provide preliminary evidence for the well‐being benefits of belonging affirmation and suggest the importance of evaluating coping strategies throughout different stages of a long‐term stressor.
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Introduction Despite the negative effects of stigma in individuals with skin conditions, interventions to address its effects are rare. This might be in part due to a continued lack of understanding as to how individuals respond to stigma. Methods In this study, we employed a step-case analytic method, using traditional regression, moderation, and network analyses, to examine the role of psychological flexibility (PF) with stigmatized experiences, and stigma-related outcomes. We run a cross-sectional study (n = 105 individuals with various skin conditions) and analyzed stigma-related variables. We included variables examining perceived stigmatization (PSQ), anxiety (GAD-7), depression (PHQ-9), well-being (EQ5D5L), and variables stemming from the PF model (CompACT), presented as three coping with stigma responses, namely “open,” “aware,” and “active.”. Results Using network analysis, the most influential or central variables that contributed to stigma were generalized anxiety, perceived stigmatization, and valued actions. In relation to PF, being open to the experience of stigma (as opposed to avoidance), keeping a distance from stigmatized thoughts (as opposed to self-stigmatizing), and bringing attention to value-based committed actions (as opposed to passivity) were all found to contribute to less stigmatized experiences. Discussion The results indicate that two of the three skills of the PF model (“open” and “active”) may be important targets for interventions targeting stigma in people living with skin conditions.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.