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Self-affirmation as a deliberate coping strategy: The moderating role of choice

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Abstract

Self-affirmation interventions, in which people write about personal values, show promise as a technique to help people cope with psychological threat. However, recent research shows that awareness of self-affirmation effects undermines them. We hypothesized that awareness attenuates self-affirmation effects only when completion of the affirmation is externally imposed, rather than personally chosen. In two experiments, self-affirmation effects reemerged when “affirmation-aware” participants were given a choice about either whether to affirm or not (Study 1) or simply which value to write about (Study 2). These results suggest that people can learn to actively apply self-affirmation as a tool for coping with everyday threats.

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... For example, Critcher, Dunning, and Armor (2010) found that self-affirmation exercises were only effective when introduced before a threat or before participants became defensive in response to a threat, which suggests that it is important to implement self-affirmation exercises before stressful events in school in order to short-circuit negative recursive cycles (see also Cohen & Garcia, 2014;Cook et al., 2012). Qualities of presentation that shape how students perceive the writing activities-such as making participants aware that exercises are beneficial (Sherman et al., 2009) or externally imposing affirmation (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013)-may mute self-affirmation benefits. Conversely, researchers have argued that the activity is most beneficial when presented as a normal classroom activity (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Purdie-Vaughns et al., 1 The summary presented in Figure 1 should be viewed as an informal account of previous self-affirmation impacts in middle school settings. ...
... We also instructed teachers to avoid representing the activities as evaluative, to avoid reference to external research, and to avoid presenting the activities as beneficial. These guidelines were based on theory and empirical evidence (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Silverman et al., 2013), with the caveat that there is little existing guidance about how these features translate into best practice for teachers in established educational settings. For instance, anecdotal feedback from teachers highlighted some tension between these theoretical ideals and integration into classroom activities. ...
... teachers, and changes in students' written responses to the intervention. First, we noted three theoretically important features of the self-affirmation writing intervention design: that activities are administered during targeted times of potential stress, especially early in the school year (Cook et al., 2012;Critcher et al., 2010), that activities are not explicitly presented as externally imposed (Silverman et al., 2013), and that activities are not presented as being beneficial to students (Sherman et al., 2009). We documented that that these features of implementation did not vary (or improved) between cohorts. ...
Article
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Brief, targeted self-affirmation writing exercises have recently been offered as a way to reduce racial achievement gaps, but evidence about their effects in educational settings is mixed, leaving ambiguity about the likely benefits of these strategies if implemented broadly. A key limitation in interpreting these mixed results is that they come from studies conducted by different research teams with different procedures in different settings; it is therefore impossible to isolate whether different effects are the result of theorized heterogeneity, unidentified moderators, or idiosyncratic features of the different studies. We addressed this limitation by conducting a well-powered replication of self-affirmation in a setting where a previous large-scale field experiment demonstrated significant positive impacts, using the same procedures. We found no evidence of effects in this replication study and estimates were precise enough to reject benefits larger than an effect size of 0.10. These null effects were significantly different from persistent benefits in the prior study in the same setting, and extensive testing revealed that currently theorized moderators of self-affirmation effects could not explain the difference. These results highlight the potential fragility of self-affirmation in educational settings when implemented widely and the need for new theory, measures, and evidence about the necessary conditions for self-affirmation success.
... On the one hand, it seems that being aware of a task being designed to affirm or of a link between self-affirmation and reduced defensive responses attenuates self-affirmation effects (Sherman, Cohen, et al., 2009). On the other hand, it has been argued that if the use of selfaffirming cognitions is intrinsically motivated, i.e., people use self-affirming cognitions out of their own choice rather than being instructed to do so by an experimenter, these cognitions might still buffer threats, at least in the academic domain (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). ...
... The key mechanism here seems to be the combination of affirmation and autonomy, that is, if people freely chose to self-affirm, or which values to affirm, they might still profit from selfaffirmation despite expectancy or correction attenuation (Sherman, Cohen, et al., 2009). As SELF-AFFIRMATION AND WELL-BEING 8 such, providing people with a repertoire of self-affirming cognitions might be an inoculation strategy that could be used as a 'deliberative coping strategy' (Silverman et al., 2013) when threatened. ...
... This notion by the way is also in line with Silverman's et al. (2013) finding that if people autonomously choose to employ self-affirming cognitions, these cognitions still buffer against psychological threat despite people being aware of these potential benefits. ...
Chapter
In this chapter, we will outline the basic tenets of self-affirmation theory and how self-affirmation has been shown to affect different contexts of human functioning. We will address commonly studied psychological benefits of self-affirmation as potential pathways of increasing well-being, discuss ways to induce self-affirmation, and detail how people may spontaneously choose to self-affirm. We will also discuss whether or not self-affirmation can truly be considered a self-regulation strategy or whether people need to be largely unaware of self-affirmation in order for it to produce beneficial effects. We will conclude the chapter by addressing boundary conditions and potential mechanisms of self-affirmation while discussing its role as a potential resource to increase well-being—after all, self-affirmation is an area of research and theorizing that has only recently been considered and picked up in the literature on subjective well-being.
... were scheduled to participate in individual sessions in what was described as a study of memory, and for which sessions lasted no more than 50 min. It was necessary to use this cover story because self-affirmation effects have been shown to be reduced when people are aware of the expected reduction in defensiveness caused by self-affirmation (Sherman et al., 2009 ), or when completion of the affirmation is externally imposed (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). Upon arriving, participants provided informed consent, completed the PANAS, and were randomly assigned to either the self-affirmation writing task condition or the control writing task condition. ...
... Effects may be diminished when people are aware that the purpose of a self-affirmation activity is to maintain self-worth or improve one's openness to threatening information (Sherman et al., 2009). However, there is evidence that this effect of awareness may be moderated by providing individuals personal choice in whether or not they self-affirm (Silverman et al., 2013 ), thereby suggesting that selfaffirmation could be beneficial as a deliberate coping strategy for some individuals under proper conditions. Finally, the timing of self-affirmation is important, as selfaffirmation has only been found to be effective when it occurs prior to the initiation of a defensive response to threat (Critcher et al., 2010). ...
Article
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Psychotherapy may be underutilized because people experience self-stigma-the internalization of public stigma associated with seeking psychotherapy. The purpose of this study was to experimentally test whether the self-stigma associated with seeking psychotherapy could be reduced by a self-affirmation intervention wherein participants reflected on an important personal characteristic. Compared with a control group, we hypothesized that a self-affirmation writing task would attenuate self-stigma, and thereby evidence indirect effects on intentions and willingness to seek psychotherapy. Participants were 84 undergraduates experiencing psychological distress. After completing pretest measures of self-stigma, intentions, and willingness to seek psychotherapy, participants were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation or a control writing task, and subsequently completed posttest measures of self-stigma, intentions, and willingness to seek psychotherapy. Consistent with hypotheses, participants who engaged in self-affirmation reported lower self-stigma at posttest. Moreover, the self-affirmation writing task resulted in a positive indirect effect on willingness to seek psychotherapy, though results failed to support an indirect effect on intentions to seek psychotherapy. Findings suggest that self-affirmation theory may provide a useful framework for designing interventions that seek to address the underutilization of psychological services through reductions in self-stigma. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
... Unlike many interventions, affirmation is also "wise" in the sense that it does not suggest to the beneficiaries that they are being singled out as in need of help, a message that can be threatening , Steele 2010, Yeager et al. 2014. Indeed, when participants are told that the affirmation is expected to benefit them, or simply led to see a connection between it and the outcome measure, its impact decreases , Silverman et al. 2012. However, the benefits of selfaffirmation can be restored even when people are aware of its expected impact if they are given a choice about whether to affirm or not (Silverman et al. 2012). ...
... Indeed, when participants are told that the affirmation is expected to benefit them, or simply led to see a connection between it and the outcome measure, its impact decreases , Silverman et al. 2012. However, the benefits of selfaffirmation can be restored even when people are aware of its expected impact if they are given a choice about whether to affirm or not (Silverman et al. 2012). When given a choice, people may construe the writing exercise not as a threatening act of control or stigmatization but rather as a tool to achieve agency over their well-being. ...
Article
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People have a basic need to maintain the integrity of the self, a global sense of personal adequacy. Events that threaten self-integrity arouse stress and self-protective defenses that can hamper performance and growth. However, an intervention known as self-affirmation can curb these negative outcomes. Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time. The present review highlights both connections with other disciplines and lessons for a social psychological understanding of intervention and change.
... The purpose of the Inuit control conditions was to determine if the self-esteem of women who were exposed to sexism, but group affirmed, was fully buffered or "restored" to the level of the control participants (figuratively speaking, as this a between-participants and not a within-participants design). Previous studies have shown that self-affirmations are most effective: 1) when they are indirect, that is, when the affirmed domain is unrelated to the threatened domain (e.g., appearance self-esteem is affirmed when academic self-esteem is threatened), 2) when the threatened domain is central and important to the self-concept, 3) when the affirmed domain is likewise important to the self-concept, and 4) when affirmations operate outside of conscious awareness (i.e., when people are unaware of their intended influence on behavior: Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Sherman, Cohen, et al., 2009; although see Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). Extrapolating to the group-level, we anticipated that women could draw upon unrelated, but valuable group memberships (e.g., one's membership in a sorority) in order to maintain self-worth in the face of a threat to social identity (in this case, gender identity). ...
... This study contributes to research that seeks to identify mechanisms that bolster the selfesteem and psychological well-being of disadvantaged group members. A group-values affirmation is a relatively simple intervention that can be implemented readily by educators, mental health counselors, and potentially, the targets of discrimination themselves (Silverman et al., 2013). The present findings illustrate the power of affirming one's group values in the context of discrimination. ...
Article
Extending the group affirmation literature to the domain of prejudice, this study investigated whether group affirmation buffers the self-esteem of women exposed to blatant sexism. In accordance with Self-Affirmation Theory and group affirmation research, we hypothesized that when one aspect of the collective self is threatened (gender identity), self-esteem can be maintained via the affirmation of an alternative aspect of the collective self. In a 2 × 2 between-participants design, female students were randomly assigned to read about discrimination directed toward women or a non-self-relevant disadvantaged group (the Inuit). All then participated in a (fictitious) second study, in which half completed a group affirmation manipulation (wrote about the top three values of a self-defining group) and half completed a control writing exercise. The self-esteem of women who were threatened by sexism, but group affirmed, was protected from the negative effects of perceiving sexism.
... In the context of health information processing, people are thus most likely to profit from self-affirmation when they affirm before being confronted with the threatening health message. Similarly, Sherman and colleagues (2009, Study 3) demonstrated that selfaffirmation did not reduce defensiveness when participants were explicitly told about its purpose (i.e., that the study was investigating how the self-affirmation manipulation influenced health beliefs), although this effect is eliminated when participants freely choose to affirm or not (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). One should thus take care in how one presents the self-affirmation task. ...
... People might perceive the task as a "threatening act of control or stigmatization" (Cohen & Sherman, 2014, p. 360) if they are explicitly made aware of its purpose and feel forced to complete it. This could induce reactance and thus decrease the effectiveness of the self-affirming activity (Silverman et al., 2013). ...
Chapter
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Accepting personally relevant health information and successfully changing one’s health behavior accordingly is valuable for long-term health and wellbeing. However, both steps pose different self-control dilemmas. It is no surprise, therefore, that people may resist health information and maintain unhealthy behavior. In this chapter, we consider the problem of responding adaptively to health risk information from a self-control perspective, and discuss how a self-affirmation intervention (that typically requires people to reflect on their important personal values or attributes) may improve self-control in the context of health information processing and health behaviour change.
... Research has found that when the self-affirmation is within domain, it can increase the perceived threat and distancing behavior rather than decrease it (McQueen & Klein, 2006). Researchers have also found that when the process of selfaffirmation is explained, the impact is negated (Silverman et al., 2013). Therefore, before intervention strategies are implemented, more research must be done to determine how to deliver self-affirming interventions effectively and ethically to this population. ...
... Wise interventions allow people to adopt new belief or behavior themselves rather than follow a directive from someone else (for example, [33,34]). In this manner, the design of wise interventions allows them to be perceived as respectful regarding the autonomy and status of students so that students realize that they make their own decisions [29]. ...
Article
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The incremental theory of personality interventions (ITPI) teaches adolescents that people can change. Researchers have found that these interventions can reduce the perpetration of bullying and cyberbullying. Moreover, there is reciprocity between perpetrating bullying behaviors and being a victim of them. The objective of this study was to examine whether the ITPI reduces the reciprocity between victimization and perpetration of bullying and cyberbullying. A sample of 858 high school students (52% boys) aged 12 to 17 at pretest (M = 14.56, SD = 0.97) participated in a double-blind randomized controlled trial (452 participants were assigned to the experimental condition and 406 to the control condition). Measures of bullying and cyberbullying were taken at baseline, six-month, and 12-month follow-ups. The results indicated that victimization was a strong predictor of perpetration for bullying and cyberbullying over time. Perpetration was not a predictor of victimization. Consistently, for both forms of aggressive behavior, the intervention reduced the intensity of the association between victimization and perpetration. This effect was not moderated by the age or sex of the participants. Finally, the effectiveness of the ITPI was moderated by age. Specifically, among the youngest (< 14.48 years), those who received the ITPI showed a slight tendency to reduce aggressive behavior that contrasted with the growing trend in the control group. Among the oldest participants (> 14.48), the trajectories were similar in the two groups. Our findings show that influencing adolescents’ reactions to peer aggression victimization is one of the mechanisms that could explain the beneficial effects of the ITPI and other preventive interventions.
... In introducing the task, we encourage counsellors to ask the permission of the client to complete a task about personal values; this would likely not seem out of place in an MI intervention as different exercises are commonly used by counsellors during MI session (e.g., the decisional balance worksheet). It is important to emphasise the client's choice in what value to write about, as perceived choice and autonomy has been shown to counteract potential negative effects of affirmation awareness (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). ...
Article
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To promote efforts at reducing problematic alcohol use and improving health outcomes, the present review proposes an integration of a social psychological approach – self-affirmation theory – with a clinical psychology intervention – motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a popular empirically-designed treatment approach that has shown moderate success at reducing drinking and improving health, especially with resistant drinkers. Experiments informed by self-affirmation theory have found that people exhibit reduced defensiveness to threatening health messages and increased intentions to reduce alcohol consumption when affirmed. This review focuses on the mechanisms by which self-affirmation reduces resistance and how these mechanisms are complementary to the MI approach. Further, the review outlines suggestions for conducting and integrating self-affirmation into a MI intervention and provides recommendations for future empirical research.
... Może to powstrzymać powstanie negatywnych oczekiwań u nauczycieli co do możliwości intelektualnych uczniów (Cook, Purdie--Vaughns, Garcia i Cohen, 2012). Po trzecie, mimo że ćwiczenia autoafirmujące mogą być skuteczne, gdy ich uczestnicy są świadomi celu interwencji (Silverman, Logel i Cohen, 2013), to ograniczona świadomość celu ćwiczeń wpływa pozytywnie na redukcję zagrożenia stereotypem . Dlatego wkomponowanie ćwiczeń autoafirmujących w zwykły tok zajęć (np. ...
Article
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Zagrożenie stereotypem wpływa na osiąganie gorszych wyników w nauce przez uczniów należących do grup negatywnie stereotypizowanych. U uczniów z mniejszości etnicznych lub rasowych wpływa ono destrukcyjnie nie tylko na osiągnięcia szkolne, ale także na poziom szczęścia czy stan zdrowia. Istnieje więc uzasadnione zapotrzebowanie na metody walki z tym zjawiskiem, które w ostatnich latach intensywnie starają się zaspokoić badania prowadzone przez psychologów społecznych. Celem artykułu jest przedstawienie i systematyzacja wyników badań na temat interwencji redukujących zagrożenie stereotypem w środowisku edukacyjnym. Badania te uporządkowano wokół interwencji ukierunkowanych na społeczeństwo i szkołę,interwencji związanych z zachowaniem nauczycieli i z warunkami przeprowadzania egzaminów testowych oraz skoncentrowanych na uczniu. Wyniki omówionych badań nasuwają efektywne i często łatwe do zastosowania metody zmniejszające zagrożenie stereotypem wśród uczniów. Interwencje oparte na tych metodach mogą wspierać tworzenie wyrównanych warunków nauki dla każdego ucznia.
... This speaks to a broader social psychological point: When people explicitly strive to boost their self-esteem or seek happiness, the focus on extrinsic benefits of the act rather than its intrinsic worth can reduce self-esteem and happiness (Mauss, Tamir, Anderson, & Savino, 2011). As a "wise" intervention (Walton, 2014), self-affirmations should operate with subtlety and emphasize the participant's choice and initiative to engage in all components of the program (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013;Walton, Logel, Peach, Spencer, & Zanna, 2014). Furthermore, to be beneficial, selfaffirmations should not be regarded as a singular cure-all, but rather as a more integrated and natural component of policy (Yeager & Walton, 2011). ...
Article
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Public policies designed to improve health and well-being are challenged by people’s resistance. A social psychological perspective reveals how health policies can pose a psychological threat to individuals and result in resistance to following health recommendations. Self-affirmation, a brief psychological intervention that has individuals focus on important personal values, can help reduce resistance to behavior change and help promote health and well-being in four health-policy domains: graphic cigarette warning labels designed to get people to quit smoking, community health programs targeted at high-risk populations, alcohol intervention and prevention programs targeted at problem drinkers, and adherence to medical recommendations and treatment regimens among people coping with disease. Using self-affirmation has important strengths and limitations as a tool to help policymakers and practitioners encourage better health choices.
... In the current study, certain affirmation sentences, such as "I am valuable" and "I deserve to be healed," were focused on supporting the patient's self-value. Therefore, with the help of self-affirmations, the individual can buffer his or her well-being against the threatening factor (Sherman & Hartson, 2011;Silverman et al., 2013;Steele, 1988). ...
Article
Background: Positive effects of auditory stimulations are common in symptom management. However, the effect of self-affirmations on symptom management is not well known. Objectives: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of self-affirmations and nature sounds on chemotherapy-related symptoms. Methods: This randomized, controlled experimental study was conducted with 140 patients receiving chemotherapy. The first experimental group listened to affirmations, the second listened to nature sounds, and the third listened to both. Findings: In the affirmation group, pain, tiredness, drowsiness, lack of appetite, depression, anxiety, and lack of well-being scores were lower. In the affirmation and nature sounds group, drowsiness, depression, anxiety, and lack of well-being scores were reduced. In the nature sounds group, tiredness, drowsiness, and lack of well-being scores were reduced. In the control group, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, and lack of well-being scores were higher.
... Indeed, it is conceivable that usefulness may vary depending on whether people engage in self-affirmation spontaneously with little thought for the consequences -it is just something they do -or whether they do it with the goal of making themselves feel better ). However, Silverman et al. (2013) have shown how freedom to choose whether or not to self-affirm can override the effects of awareness on the outcomes of self-affirmation, which may be why spontaneous self-affirmation as measured by the SSAM has been found to date to be associated more often with positive than negative effects. Likewise, one of the consequences of a tendency to engage in self-affirmation spontaneously might be to reduce the tendency to experience threat. ...
Article
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Research into self-affirmation has almost exclusively employed experimental manipulations. In this paper we address individual differences in the tendency to respond to threats with self-affirming cognitions and distinguish this from two overlapping constructs: habitual positive self-thought and trait self-esteem. Items we designed to measure self-affirmation were represented by three first-order factors and loaded on a higher-order factor, creating the Spontaneous Self-Affirmation Measure (SSAM). The SSAM correlated moderately with self-esteem and habitual positive self-thought. In competitive analyses, the SSAM was an independent predictor of a large number of outcomes. The studies provide evidence about the correlates of individual differences in reported spontaneous self-affirmation in response to threat and the contribution made to this response by habitual positive self-thought and trait self-esteem.
... The removal of this barrier simply allowed the person and the system to function optimally. In at least some cases this under-the-radar quality may make wise interventions more effective: It allows recipients to see the ideas conveyed as ones they are freely pursuing, not as imposed upon them Silverman et al., 2013;Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, et al., 2004), and to take pride in their accomplishments rather than to cede them to an external influence (see discussion of McCord, 1978in Ross & Nisbett, 1991. ...
Article
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Long-standing social problems such as poor achievement, personal and intergroup conflict, bad health, and unhappiness can seem like permanent features of the social landscape. We describe an approach to such problems rooted in basic theory and research in social psychology. This approach emphasizes subjective meaning-making—working hypotheses people draw about themselves, other people, and social situations; how deleterious meanings can arise from social and cultural contexts; how interventions to change meanings can help people flourish; and how initial change can become embedded to alter the course of people’s lives. We further describe how this approach relates to and complements other prominent approaches to social reform, which emphasize not subjective meaning-making but objective change in situations or in the habits and skills of individuals. In so doing, we provide a comprehensive theoretical review and organization of a psychologically informed approach to social problems, one that encompasses a wide-range of interventions and applies to diverse problem areas.
... Because of the deliberate nature, subjects may guess the intention and the self-affirmation effect would be influenced (Sherman et al., 2009). These perceptions of intentions will undermine self-affirmation because of external forced completion rather than personal choice (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). Viewing WeChat's personal moments is a relatively natural way to meet people's daily behavior. ...
... Studies have shown self-affirmation to be an effective buffer against psychological threat in many situations, including in educational settings such as colleges (see e.g. Harackiewicz et al., 2013;Kinias & Sim, 2016;Martens, Johns, Greenberg, & Schimel, 2006;Miyake et al., 2010;Shapiro, Williams, & Hambarchyan, 2013;Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013;Tibbetts et al., 2016) and massive open online courses (Kizilcec, Saltarelli, Reich, & Cohen, 2017). ...
Article
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Background Studies in the United States show that school students from some ethnic backgrounds are susceptible to stereotype threat, that this undermines their academic performance, and that a series of virtually zero‐cost self‐affirmation writing exercises can reduce these adverse effects. In England, however, socioeconomic status (SES) is a much stronger predictor of academic success than is ethnic background. Aims This study investigates whether self‐affirmation writing exercises can help close the SES attainment gap in England by increasing the academic performance of low‐SES (but not higher‐SES) school students. Sample Our sample consisted of students aged 11–14 in a secondary school in southern England (N = 562); of these, 128 were eligible for free school meals, a proxy for low SES. Methods Students completed three short writing exercises throughout one academic year: those randomly assigned to an affirmed condition wrote about values that were important to them, and those assigned to a control condition wrote about a neutral topic. Results On average, the low‐SES students had lower academic performance and reported experiencing more stereotype threat than their higher‐SES peers. The self‐affirmation raised the academic performance of the low‐SES students by 0.38 standard deviations but did not significantly affect the performance of the higher‐SES students, thus reducing the SES performance gap by 62%. The self‐affirmation also reduced the level of stress reported by the low‐SES students. Conclusions The benefits of this virtually zero‐cost intervention compare favourably with those of other interventions targeting the SES academic attainment gap.
... There is evidence that heightened awareness of the intent of the manipulation could diminish the beneficial impact and thus the relatively stealthy nature of the intervention may be one key to its efficacy ( ; for discussion , see Cohen et al., 2012; Yeager & Walton, 2011). At the same time, under certain situations—for example, when people choose to affirm themselves—affirmation can lead to beneficial effects even under conditions of awareness (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). Given the importance of students' narrative experience in their academic progress, educators seeking to implement the intervention should carefully consider how to frame it to teachers and students. ...
Article
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To the extent that stereotype and identity threat undermine academic performance, social psychological interventions that lessen threat could buffer threatened students and improve performance. Two studies, each featuring a longitudinal field experiment in a mixed-ethnicity middle school, examined whether a values affirmation writing exercise could attenuate the achievement gap between Latino American and European American students. In Study 1, students completed multiple self-affirmation (or control) activities as part of their regular class assignments. Latino American students, the identity threatened group, earned higher grades in the affirmation than control condition, whereas White students were unaffected. The effects persisted 3 years and, for many students, continued into high school by lifting their performance trajectory. Study 2 featured daily diaries to examine how the affirmation affected psychology under identity threat, with the expectation that it would shape students' narratives of their ongoing academic experience. By conferring a big-picture focus, affirmation was expected to broaden construals, prevent daily adversity from being experienced as identity threat, and insulate academic motivation from identity threat. Indeed, affirmed Latino American students not only earned higher grades than nonaffirmed Latino American students but also construed events at a more abstract than concrete level and were less likely to have their daily feelings of academic fit and motivation undermined by identity threat. Discussion centers on how social-psychological processes propagate themselves over time and how timely interventions targeting these processes can promote well-being and achievement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
... Another possible constraint to consider is awareness of the self-affirmation intervention process. The effectiveness of self-affirmation interventions can be undermined if participants are aware of the aim of the intervention (Silverman et al., 2013). Medical students may be more aware of and less compliant with aims to influence them than are adolescents and undergraduates (e.g., Sears, 1986;Peterson & Murunka, 2014), given their relative knowledge and experiences. ...
Preprint
Self-affirmation interventions have been shown to mitigate the negative psychological effects of stereotype threat on Black students in secondary and undergraduate education. However, there is currently limited research testing whether Black in medical schools may also experience the negative influences of stereotype threat. Until now, it has been unclear whether Black (vs. White) students experience a lower sense of belonging in medical school and whether they can benefit from self-affirmation interventions during medical training. With a longitudinal field experiment, we tested (a) whether Black (vs. White) medical students in the US experience decrements in psychological well-being (i.e., fatigue, depression, anxiety), sense of belonging, and perceived residency competitiveness; and (b) the extent to which a self-affirmation intervention would ameliorate any observed disparities in these outcomes for Black students. With a sample of 234 Black and 182 White medical students across 50 schools in the US, we found that Black students tended to report more fatigue and less belonging than White students; however, the self-affirmation intervention did not significantly influence students’ fatigue, depression, anxiety, or belonging. Unexpectedly, Black students in the self-affirmation (vs. control) condition reported lower perceived competitiveness for residency. White students’ perceived competitiveness for residency was unaffected by the intervention. Exploratory analyses revealed that Black (vs. White) students were less likely to indicate stable residency goals over time; however, this racial gap was eliminated with the intervention. We discuss the plausible reasons for these findings and provide recommendations for future work in this area.
... Self-affirmation means to assert a more holistic or expansive version of oneself by listing one's values, skills, and positive characteristics (Cohen and Sherman, 2014;Silverman et al., 2013). Positive psychology gives many examples like love, courage, hope, gratitude, patience, forgiveness, creativity, and humor (Harris et al., 2007). ...
... Indeed, it is conceivable that usefulness may vary depending on whether people engage in self-affirmation spontaneously with little thought for the consequencesit is just something they door whether they do it with the goal of making themselves feel better (Sherman et al., 2009). However, Silverman, Logel, and Cohen (2013) have shown how freedom to choose whether or not to selfaffirm can override the effects of awareness on the outcomes of self-affirmation, which may be why spontaneous self-affirmation as measured by the SSAM has been found to date to be associated more often with positive than negative effects. Likewise, one of the consequences of a tendency to engage in self-affirmation spontaneously might be to reduce the tendency to experience threat. ...
Article
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The present research examines the relationship between individual differences in the extent to which people report self-affirming when faced with a threat (spontaneous self-affirmation) and well-being. Across three studies (total N = 515), spontaneous self-affirmation consistently emerged as a significant linear predictor of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being outcomes, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. A self-affirmation manipulation eliminated this association for two indices of well-being, primarily by boosting the well-being scores of those lower in spontaneous self-affirmation. Furthermore, spontaneous self-affirmation was found to partially mediate associations between socioeconomic status and well-being. These findings highlight individual differences in spontaneous self-affirmation as a potentially important contributor to well-being and suggest that consideration of spontaneous self-affirmation might further our understanding of the relationship between socioeconomic status and well-being.
... Subjects must not know the intention of the self-affirmation intervention or else the effect is negated (Silverman et al., 2013;Steele & Liu, 1983). Therefore, asking workshop participants to write about how they value themselves as a teacher would be methodologically unsound. ...
... In the present study there is evidence self-defence is utilised by a few learners (p.213) who wish to avoid the stressful disruption and to attribute the results to external causes so as to persuade themselves they are doing their best since people are motivated to protect self-integrity and maintain their perception of adequacy (Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). ...
Article
Learner autonomy has been a popular topic of discussion and research with its potential to help learners manage their learning through taking charge of the process. It has also long been debated that teacher support for learner autonomy is a predictor of increased autonomous behaviours learners display in their learning. This study examines the perceptions of teacher educators about their conceptualisations of and support for autonomy, and the perceptions of student teachers about their conceptualisations of and practice of autonomy in their actual learning process. The study also looks at the factors that influence both teacher support and students’ development and implementation of autonomy. This study was carried out in the Faculty of Education in a university in North Cyprus. The research design utilised case study within a qualitative paradigm with semi-structured interviews and student/teacher diaries as the data collection methods to explore autonomy support and practice in a natural setting with in-depth data. Content analysis was used for the analysis of the data. Data from 15 teacher educators and 27 student teachers indicate that teacher educators support and student teachers practise learner autonomy in relation to five main categories: Metacognition, an Atmosphere Conducive to Learner Autonomy, Learner Training, Interdependence and Affect. According to both teacher educators and student teachers, there are serious barriers that hinder teacher educators’ support and inhibit student teachers’ practice. Conceptualisations and background of teachers and learners regarding autonomy, education system and teacher autonomy were reported to be the main barriers.
... This is not to say that people cannot use affirmation as a personal coping strategy if they are aware of its benefits. As long as they feel they have choice in the decision to use it, they still benefit even when aware of its salutary effects (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013). Indeed, the lessons of self-affirmation theory can be imparted to students with positive results (Walton et al., 2015). ...
Chapter
A theory-based intervention known as “self-affirmation” provides people with the opportunity to affirm a sense of self-integrity, a global image of moral and adaptive adequacy, at moments of psychological threat. By assuaging threat, affirmations can allay stress and defensive responding. The positive impact of self-affirmations has been shown in many domains including health, intergroup conflict, prejudice, and education. In these domains, persistent threats to self-integrity can impede adaptive outcomes. Affirmations, by broadening the perceived bases of self-integrity, render these threats less dire. The focus of the present chapter is on affirmations in educational institutions, although it will touch on affirmation research conducted in other contexts. On the whole, affirmation interventions have been shown to be powerful yet conditional in their effects. They have large and lasting benefits under theoretically specified conditions: when people are under persistent psychological threat that impedes adaptive outcomes, when the affirmation is well-timed to this threat and activates the self-affirmation process, and where other resources for positive change are available and thus likely to be activated once psychological threat has been assuaged. The mechanisms behind both short-term and long-term effects of self-affirmation interventions are discussed. To illuminate the theoretical and practical considerations in applying self-affirmation interventions, a case study is presented. Researchers working in a German school system with a large immigrant population sought to apply self-affirmation. Because the intervention was developed in North America, the successful application depended on being attentive to the underlying mechanisms and theoretical moderators. In a final section, lingering theoretical and applied questions are discussed.
... Self-affirmation means to assert a more holistic or expansive version of oneself by listing one's values, skills, and positive characteristics (Cohen and Sherman, 2014;Silverman et al., 2013). Positive psychology gives many examples like love, courage, hope, gratitude, patience, forgiveness, creativity, and humor (Harris et al., 2007). ...
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Sentiment transfer is one popular example of a text style transfer task, where the goal is to reverse the sentiment polarity of a text. With a sentiment reversal comes also a reversal in meaning. We introduce a different but related task called positive reframing in which we neutralize a negative point of view and generate a more positive perspective for the author without contradicting the original meaning. Our insistence on meaning preservation makes positive reframing a challenging and semantically rich task. To facilitate rapid progress, we introduce a large-scale benchmark, Positive Psychology Frames, with 8,349 sentence pairs and 12,755 structured annotations to explain positive reframing in terms of six theoretically-motivated reframing strategies. Then we evaluate a set of state-of-the-art text style transfer models, and conclude by discussing key challenges and directions for future work.
... Dunning (2007) argued that many decisions people take in their everyday lives are influenced by their general belief that they are of good character. The literature also shows that people appreciate situations in which they can cultivate their prosocial goals and self-perception (Monin and Miller, 2001;Khan and Dhar, 2006;Silverman et al., 2013). ...
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According to theories on moral balancing, a prosocial act can decrease people’s motivation to engage in subsequent prosocial behavior, because people feel that they have already achieved a positive moral self-perception. However, there is also empirical evidence showing that people actually need to be recognized by others in order to establish and affirm their self-perception through their prosocial actions. Without social recognition, moral balancing could possibly fail. In this paper, we investigate in two laboratory experiments how social recognition of prosocial behavior influences subsequent moral striving. Building on self-completion theory, we hypothesize that social recognition of prosocial behavior (self-serving behavior) weakens (strengthens) subsequent moral striving. In Study 1, we show that a prosocial act leads to less subsequent helpfulness when it was socially recognized as compared to a situation without social recognition. Conversely, when a self-serving act is socially recognized, it encourages subsequent helpfulness. In Study 2, we replicate the effect of social recognition on moral striving in a more elaborated experimental setting and with a larger participant sample. We again find that a socially recognized prosocial act leads to less subsequent helpfulness compared to an unrecognized prosocial act. Our results shed new light on the boundary conditions of moral balancing effects and underscore the view that these effects can be conceptualized as a dynamic of self-completion.
... The instructions and script provided to teachers were further intended to frame the writing activities as typical classroom activities, and our trainings and materials urged teachers to present the exercises as such and avoid mention of the activity as an external research project. These methods correspond with prior evidence regarding best practices, which suggest that students not be told that the intervention is externally imposed (Silverman, Logel, & Cohen, 2013) and that the exercises should resemble normal classroom activities delivered by teachers who may care to know more about their students' most important values (Cohen et al., 2006;Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Purdie-Vaughns et al., 2009). ...
... Also, wise interventions are based on the principles of the psychology of persuasion. In general, they do not tell people that they "should" adopt a new belief or behavior, but rather allow them to adopt it independently (Brady et al., 2016;Silverman et al., 2013). Therefore, this type of intervention is of great interest during adolescence, as such interventions are designed to be perceived as respectful of adolescents' autonomy and status, which enhances making personal decisions (Yeager et al., 2018). ...
... For example, when the exercises are introduced as beneficial, or ''good for you,'' it can suggest that the activity is intended to be therapeutic and to ''cure'' something that is ''wrong'' with the participants, which can undermine the effectiveness of affirmations (Sherman et al., 2009). Finally, the exercises seem most beneficial when introduced as normal classroom activities delivered by teachers who are seeking to know more about their students' most important values Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Silverman et al., 2013). ...
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Nationally, educators suspend Black students at greater rates than any other group. This disproportionality is fueled by stereotypes casting Black students as “troublemakers”—a label students too often internalize as part of their identities. Across two independent double-blind randomized field trials involving over 2,000 seventh graders in 11 middle schools, we tested the efficacy of a brief intervention to buffer students from stereotypes and mitigate the racial suspension gap. The self-affirmation intervention helps students access positive aspects of their identities less associated with troublemaking in school. Confirmed in both trials, treatment effects cut Black-White suspension and office disciplinary referral gaps during seventh and eighth grade by approximately two thirds, with even greater impacts for Black students with prior infractions.
... Another possible constraint to consider is awareness of the self-affirmation intervention process. The effectiveness of self-affirmation interventions can be undermined if participants are aware of the aim of the intervention (Silverman et al., 2013). Medical students may be more aware of and less compliant with aims to influence them than are adolescents and undergraduates (e.g., Sears, 1986;Peterson & Merunka, 2014), given their relative knowledge and experiences. ...
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Self‐affirmation interventions have been shown to mitigate the negative psychological effects of stereotype threat on Black students in secondary and undergraduate education. However, there is currently limited research testing whether Black students in medical schools may also experience the negative influences of stereotype threat. Until now, it has been unclear whether Black (vs. White) students experience a lower sense of belonging in medical school and whether they can benefit from self‐affirmation interventions during medical training. With a longitudinal field experiment, we tested (a) whether Black (vs. White) medical students in the US experience decrements in psychological well‐being (i.e., fatigue, depression, anxiety), sense of belonging, perceived residency competitiveness, and residency goal stability; and (b) the extent to which a self‐affirmation intervention would ameliorate any observed disparities in these outcomes for Black students. With a sample of 234 Black and 182 White medical students across 50 schools in the United States, we found that Black students tended to report more fatigue and less belonging than White students; however, the self‐affirmation intervention did not significantly influence students’ fatigue, depression, anxiety, or belonging. Unexpectedly, Black students in the self‐affirmation (vs. control) condition reported lower perceived competitiveness for residency. White students’ perceived competitiveness for residency was unaffected by the intervention. Exploratory analyses revealed that Black (vs. White) students were less likely to indicate stable residency goals over time, which may be an indication of threat; however, this racial gap was eliminated with the intervention. We discuss the plausible reasons for these findings and provide recommendations for future work in this area.
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Purpose This paper aims to investigate the relationships between travel satisfaction, commitment and revisits intention among the UAE international tourists as well as the moderating effect of environmental turbulence. Design/methodology/approach Using the quantitative approach, the experience of individual foreign tourists who travelled to three UAE major cities, namely, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, were probed. Through a drop-off and collect approach survey, 413 usable questionnaires were successfully collected and analysed. Findings The results of multiple regression path analysis confirm tourist satisfaction towards UAE tourism product and services influences their travel commitment and boosts tourist revisit intention behaviour. This paper also demonstrates how the Arab environmental turbulence moderates tourist satisfaction’s effect on revisit intention adversely. Originality/value This study offers valuable input to the UAE’s tourism governing bodies and industry practitioners. While continuously boosting the quality of tourism products and services, they also need to curb the effect of environmental turbulence as it would discourage tourists from revisiting UAE in the future.
Article
Stereotype threat, the concern about being judged in light of negative stereotypes, causes underperformance in evaluative situations. However, less is known about how coping with stereotypes can aggravate underperformance over time. We propose a model in which ongoing stereotype threat experiences threaten a person's sense of self-integrity, which in turn prompts defensive avoidance of stereotype-relevant situations, impeding growth, achievement, and well-being. We test this model in an important but understudied population: the physically disabled. In Study 1, blind adults reporting higher levels of stereotype threat reported lower self-integrity and well-being and were more likely to be unemployed and to report avoiding stereotype-threatening situations. In Study 2's field experiment, blind students in a compensatory skill-training program made more progress if they had completed a values-affirmation, an exercise that bolsters self-integrity. The findings suggest that stereotype threat poses a chronic threat to self-integrity and undermines life outcomes for people with disabilities.
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Previous studies suggest that conspicuous consumption has been allegedly prominent determinant for several adverse outcomes. Sivanathan & Pettit (2010) suggest that self-threat could increase the likelihood to conspicuous consumption by increasing the willingness to pay the products and served as a coping mechanism to the consumer’s battered self-integrity. Meanwhile, previous findings suggest that self-affirmation manipulation has been empirically justified to reduce the likelihood of conspicuous consumption following self-threat manipulation and recent research evidence show that opportunity cost salience reducing the likelihood to choose premium expensive options. Hence we would like to test, whether self-affirmation or opportunity cost salience could be a better strategy to reduce the likelihood of conspicuous consumption after self-threat manipulation. This current study will extend the previous study by measuring not only a willingness to pay but also an intention to buy and focus on the high-status goods manipulation. Albeit the manipulation did not yield significant results. We conjecture that self-affirmation might be more effective to handle the conspicuous consumption rather than opportunity cost consideration since affect based coping might provide a better efficacy to reduce the defensive compensatory consumption result from the self-threat.
Article
PurposeAchievement motivation is not a fixed quantity. Rather, it depends, in part, on one’s subjective construal of the learning environment and their place within it – their narrative. In this paper, we describe how brief interventions can maximize student motivation by changing the students’ narratives. ApproachWe review the recent field experiments testing the efficacy of social-psychological interventions in classroom settings. We focus our review on four types of interventions: ones that change students’ interpretations of setbacks, that reframe the learning environment as fair and nonthreatening, that remind students of their personal adequacy, or that clarify students’ purpose for learning. FindingsSuch interventions can have long-lasting benefits if changes in students’ narratives lead to initial achievement gains, which further propagate positive narratives, in a positive feedback loop. Yet social-psychological interventions are not magical panaceas for poor achievement. Rather, they must be targeted to specific populations, timed appropriately, and given in a context in which students have opportunities to act upon the messages they contain. Originality/valueSocial-psychological interventions can help many students realize their achievement potential if they are integrated within a supportive learning context.
Article
Life is full of negative events that threaten our self-worth, and we deploy a wide range of potent psychological strategies—such as dissonance reduction, motivated reasoning, downward comparison, self-serving attribution, and outgroup derogation—to defend our egos. People are highly adept at using these psychological immune system strategies while remaining blind to the fact that they have done so. In fact, prominent voices in the field have suggested that this lack of awareness is a necessary condition for the psychological immune system’s efficacy; how else could someone continue to believe a self-serving attribution while being aware that the attribution was generated precisely because it favored him or her? In this article, I outline the argument underlying why awareness might be a threat to the efficacy of the psychological immune system and then closely review the empirical literature for evidence supporting this claim. On the contrary, the data indicate people can and do use these strategies with awareness, intention, and efficacy. I subsequently consider three ways people may achieve the apparent paradox of being aware of their own biased mental processes while also believing the conclusions that result from them. The third of these is a novel conceptual approach to the illusion of objectivity, which highlights the potential for dissociation between the objectivity of our mental processes and of our mental products. Finally, I outline the implications of this work for future theoretical and applied research.
Article
Social–psychological interventions in education have shown remarkable promise as brief, inexpensive, and powerful methods for improving educational equity and inclusion by helping underperforming students realize their potential. These findings have led to intensive study and replication attempts to understand and close achievement gaps at scale. In the present review, we identify several significant issues this work has raised that bear on the theoretical, ethical, and policy implications of using these interventions to close achievement gaps. Using both classic and contemporary models of threat and performance, we propose a Zone Model of Threat to predict when social–psychological interventions in education may yield positive, null, and negative effects for specific students. From this analysis, we argue from an ethical standpoint that to reduce backfire effects, interventions should be focused on optimizing the salience of psychological threat across students rather than on uniformly reducing it. As a long‐term policy goal, intervention studies should follow a two‐step process, in which students’ individual levels of threat are first diagnosed and then interventions are tailored to the students based on their threat levels. Practical and theoretical implications of the proposed framework are discussed.
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Self-affirmation is a promising brief intervention for reducing the academic achievement gap between majority and stigmatized groups (e.g., underrepresented minorities, women in STEM fields). Affirmations are thought to improve academic performance among stigmatized groups by expanding one’s sense of self, buffering social belonging, and reducing social identity threat. Despite encouraging results, some studies suggest that affirmations may inadvertently decrease the academic performance of nonthreatened White students. We conducted experimental studies to evaluate whether an affirmation focused on the theme of social belonging (i.e., belonging-affirmation) decreased the math performance of White males. We hypothesized that the belonging-affirmation would enhance performance for female participants but diminish math performance for White male participants. Two studies were conducted to evaluate these hypotheses: (1) a lab-based study involving 122 White male and mixed-ethnicity female undergraduates, and (2) an online study involving 197 young adult White males and females. Results failed to support study hypotheses, with no substantive differences in math performance found between male and female participants randomized to a belonging-affirmation versus neutral writing control. These findings are consistent with recent large-scale field replication failures of self-affirmation interventions, indicating that the phenomena may be more nuanced and fragile than suggested by early research findings.
Article
Self-affirmation—reflecting on a source of global self-integrity outside of the threatened domain—can mitigate self-threat in education, health, relationships, and more. Whether people recognize these benefits is unknown. Inspired by the metamotivational approach, we examined people’s beliefs about the benefits of self-affirmation and whether individual differences in these beliefs predict how people cope with self-threat. The current research revealed that people recognize that self-affirmation is selectively helpful for self-threat situations compared with other negative situations. However, people on average did not distinguish between self-affirmation and alternative strategies for coping with self-threat. Importantly, individual differences in these beliefs predicted coping decisions: Those who recognized the benefits of self-affirmation were more likely to choose to self-affirm rather than engage in an alternative strategy following an experience of self-threat. We discuss implications for self-affirmation theory and developing interventions to promote adaptive responses to self-threat.
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What kinds of social interactions help individuals recover from an embarrassing experience? The present experiment examined the possibility that whereas individuals do not benefit from interacting with someone who is merely trying to understand and empathize, they do benefit from interacting with someone who has undergone the same experience and thus accurately understands their feelings. The ‘target’ member of 142 dyads performed an embarrassing task in front of the ‘perceiver’, after which they had a face‐to‐face discussion. Unbeknownst to targets, some perceivers did the task themselves beforehand, and some perceivers adopted an empathic mindset during the exchange. Perceivers’ previous experience predicted improvements in targets’ self‐evaluations that were mediated by more accurate perceptions of targets’ feelings. In contrast, perceivers’ empathic mindset had no benefits for targets, alone or in concert with prior experience. The only apparent benefits of perceivers’ empathic mindset were that perceivers felt more empathy and liking for targets (both undetected by targets), and felt viewed more favourably by targets (not corroborated by targets). These results suggest greater efficacy of perceiver experience over empathic concern in facilitating targets’ recovery from embarrassing events. Perceivers’ dispositional empathy, involving a different type of experience accumulated over time, also predicted benefits to targets.
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Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students academic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have lasting effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psychological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but context-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psychological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.
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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.
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Investigated, in 2 experiments, whether judgments of happiness and satisfaction with one's life are influenced by mood at the time of judgment. In Exp I, moods were induced by asking 61 undergraduates for vivid descriptions of a recent happy or sad event in their lives. In Exp II, moods were induced by interviewing 84 participants on sunny or rainy days. In both experiments, Ss reported more happiness and satisfaction with their life as a whole when in a good mood than when in a bad mood. However, the negative impact of bad moods was eliminated when Ss were induced to attribute their present feelings to transient external sources irrelevant to the evaluation of their lives; but Ss who were in a good mood were not affected by misattribution manipulations. The data suggest that (a) people use their momentary affective states in making judgments of how happy and satisfied they are with their lives in general and (b) people in unpleasant affective states are more likely to search for and use information to explain their state than are people in pleasant affective states. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This experiment examined the effects on the learning process of 3 complementary strategies—contextualization, personalization, and provision of choices—for enhancing students' intrinsic motivation. Elementary school children in 1 control and 4 experimental conditions worked with educational computer activities designed to teach arithmetical order of operations rules. In the control condition, this material was presented abstractly. In the experimental conditions, identical material was presented in meaningful and appealing learning contexts, in either generic or individually personalized form. Half of the students in each group were also offered choices concerning instructionally incidental aspects of the learning contexts; the remainder were not. Contextualization, personalization, and choice all produced dramatic increases, not only in students' motivation but also in their depth of engagement in learning, the amount they learned in a fixed time period, and their perceived competence and levels of aspiration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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According to self-determination theory, when the social context is autonomy supportive, people are motivated to internalize the regulation of important activities, and whereas when the context is controlling, self-determined motivation is undermined. A model that incorporates perceptions of coaches' interpersonal behaviors (autonomy support vs. control), 5 forms of regulation (intrinsic motivation, identified, introjected and external regulation, and amotivation), and persistence was tested with competitive swimmers (N = 369) using a prospective 3-wave design. Analyses using structural equation modeling revealed that experiencing relationships as controlling fostered non–self-determined forms of regulation (external regulation and amotivation). Greater levels of self-determined motivation occurred when relationships were experienced as autonomy supportive. Individuals who exhibited self-determined types of regulation at Time 1 showed more persistence at both Time 2 (10 months later) and Time 3 (22 months later). Individuals who were amotivated at Time 1 had the highest rate of attrition at both Time 2 and Time 3. Introjected regulation was a significant predictor of persistence at Time 2 but became nonsignificant at Time 3. External regulation was not a significant predictor of behavior at Time 2, but became negatively associated with persistence at Time 3. The findings are discussed in light of the determinants of the internalization process and the consequences of different forms of self-regulation for psychological functioning.
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Three studies investigated whether self-affirmation can proceed without awareness, whether people are aware of the influence of experimental self-affirmations, and whether such awareness facilitates or undermines the self-affirmation process. The authors found that self-affirmation effects could proceed without awareness, as implicit self-affirming primes (utilizing sentence-unscrambling procedures) produced standard self-affirmation effects (Studies 1 and 3). People were generally unaware of self-affirmation's influence, and self-reported awareness was associated with decreased impact of the affirmation (Studies 1 and 2). Finally, affirmation effects were attenuated when people learned that self-affirmation was designed to boost self-esteem (Study 2) or told of a potential link between self-affirmation and evaluations of threatening information (Study 3). Together, these studies suggest not only that affirmation processes can proceed without awareness but also that increased awareness of the affirmation may diminish its impact.
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Everyday stressors can threaten valued aspects of the self. Self-affirmation theory posits that this threat could be attenuated if individuals affirm alternative self-resources. The present study examined whether self-affirmation would buffer cumulative stress responses to an ongoing academic stressor. Undergraduate participants provided 15-hr urine samples on the morning of their most stressful examination and baseline samples 14 days prior to the examination. Participants were randomly assigned to the self-affirmation condition where they wrote two essays on important values over the 2-week period prior to exam, or a control condition. Samples were analyzed for urinary catecholamine excretion (epinephrine, norepinephrine), an indicator of sympathetic nervous system activation. Participants also indicated their appraisals of the examination experience. Participants in the control condition increased in cumulative epinephrine levels from baseline to examination, whereas participants in the self-affirmation condition did not differ from baseline to examination. The buffering effect of self-affirmation was strongest among individuals most concerned about negative college evaluation, those most psychologically vulnerable. The findings demonstrate that sympathetic nervous system responses to naturalistic stressors can be attenuated by self-affirmation. Discussion centers on psychological pathways by which affirmation can reduce stress and the implications of the findings for health outcomes among chronically stressed participants.
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A 2-year follow-up of a randomized field experiment previously reported in Science is presented. A subtle intervention to lessen minority students' psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped in school was tested in an experiment conducted three times with three independent cohorts (N = 133, 149, and 134). The intervention, a series of brief but structured writing assignments focusing students on a self-affirming value, reduced the racial achievement gap. Over 2 years, the grade point average (GPA) of African Americans was, on average, raised by 0.24 grade points. Low-achieving African Americans were particularly benefited. Their GPA improved, on average, 0.41 points, and their rate of remediation or grade repetition was less (5% versus 18%). Additionally, treated students' self-perceptions showed long-term benefits. Findings suggest that because initial psychological states and performance determine later outcomes by providing a baseline and initial trajectory for a recursive process, apparently small but early alterations in trajectory can have long-term effects. Implications for psychological theory and educational practice are discussed.
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People are generally unaware of the operation of the system of cognitive mechanisms that ameliorate their experience of negative affect (the psychological immune system), and thus they tend to overestimate the duration of their affective reactions to negative events. This tendency was demonstrated in 6 studies in which participants overestimated the duration of their affective reactions to the dissolution of a romantic relationship, the failure to achieve tenure, an electoral defeat, negative personality feedback, an account of a child's death, and rejection by a prospective employer. Participants failed to distinguish between situations in which their psychological immune systems would and would not be likely to operate and mistakenly predicted overly and equally enduring affective reactions in both instances. The present experiments suggest that people neglect the psychological immune system when making affective forecasts.
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Human beings can be proactive and engaged or, alternatively, passive and alienated, largely as a function of the social conditions in which they develop and function. Accordingly, research guided by self-determination theory has focused on the social-contextual conditions that facilitate versus forestall the natural processes of self-motivation and healthy psychological development. Specifically, factors have been examined that enhance versus undermine intrinsic motivation, self-regulation, and well-being. The findings have led to the postulate of three innate psychological needs--competence, autonomy, and relatedness--which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being. Also considered is the significance of these psychological needs and processes within domains such as health care, education, work, sport, religion, and psychotherapy.
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Two randomized field experiments tested a social-psychological intervention designed to improve minority student performance and increase our understanding of how psychological threat mediates performance in chronically evaluative real-world environments. We expected that the risk of confirming a negative stereotype aimed at one's group could undermine academic performance in minority students by elevating their level of psychological threat. We tested whether such psychological threat could be lessened by having students reaffirm their sense of personal adequacy or "self-integrity." The intervention, a brief in-class writing assignment, significantly improved the grades of African American students and reduced the racial achievement gap by 40%. These results suggest that the racial achievement gap, a major social concern in the United States, could be ameliorated by the use of timely and targeted social-psychological interventions.
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Although expressive writing has positive effects on health, little is known about the underlying psychological mechanisms for these effects. The present study assessed self-affirmation, cognitive processing, and discovery of meaning as potential mediators of the effects of expressive writing on physical health in early-stage breast cancer survivors. A content analysis of the essays showed that self-affirmation writing was associated with fewer physical symptoms at a 3-month follow-up assessment, with self-affirmation writing fully mediating the effects of the emotional expression and benefit-finding writing conditions on reduced physical symptoms. Cognitive processing and discovery of meaning writing were not associated with any physical health outcomes. Consistent with evidence showing that self-affirmation plays an important role in buffering stress, the present study provides the first evidence for self-affirmation as a viable mechanism underlying the health benefits of expressive writing.
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Three studies link resistance to probative information and intransigence in negotiation to concerns of identity maintenance. Each shows that affirmations of personal integrity (vs. nonaffirmation or threat) can reduce resistance and intransigence but that this effect occurs only when individuals' partisan identity and/or identity-related convictions are made salient. Affirmation made participants' assessment of a report critical of U.S. foreign policy less dependent on their political views, but only when the identity relevance of the issue rather than the goal of rationality was salient (Study 1). Affirmation increased concession making in a negotiation over abortion policy, but again this effect was moderated by identity salience (Studies 2 and 3). Indeed, although affirmed negotiators proved relatively more open to compromise when either the salience of their true convictions or the importance of remaining faithful to those convictions was heightened, the reverse was true when the salient goal was compromise. The theoretical and applied significance of these findings are discussed.
Article
A general theory of domain identification is used to describe achievement barriers still faced by women in advanced quantitative areas and by African Americans in school. The theory assumes that sustained school success requires identification with school and its subdomains; that societal pressures on these groups (e.g., economic disadvantage, gender roles) can frustrate this identification; and that in school domains where these groups are negatively stereotyped, those who have become domain identified face the further barrier of stereotype threat, the threat that others' judgments or their own actions will negatively stereotype them in the domain. Research shows that this threat dramatically depresses the standardized test performance of women and African Americans who are in the academic vanguard of their groups (offering a new interpretation of group differences in standardized test performance), that it causes disidentification with school, and that practices that reduce this threat can reduce these negative effects.
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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.
Article
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
Past work has documented and described major patterns of adaptive and maladaptive behavior: the mastery-oriented and the helpless patterns. In this article, we present a research-based model that accounts for these patterns in terms of underlying psychological processes. The model specifies how individuals' implicit theories orient them toward particular goals and how these goals set up the different patterns. Indeed, we show how each feature (cognitive, affective, and behavioral) of the adaptive and maladaptive patterns can be seen to follow directly from different goals. We then examine the generality of the model and use it to illuminate phenomena in a wide variety of domains. Finally, we place the model in its broadest context and examine its implications for our understanding of motivational and personality processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Describes how motivational processes influence a child's acquisition, transfer, and use of knowledge and skills. Recent research within the social-cognitive framework illustrates adaptive and maladaptive motivational patterns, and a research-based model of motivational processes is presented that shows how the particular performance or learning goals children pursue on cognitive tasks shape their reactions to success and failure and influence the quality of their cognitive performance. Implications for practice and the design of interventions to change maladaptive motivational processes are outlined. It is suggested that motivational patterns may contribute to gender differences in mathematics achievement and that empirically based interventions may prevent current achievement discrepancies and provide a basis for more effective socialization. (79 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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.
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The present studies were designed to investigate the effects of self-affirmation on the performance of women under stereotype threat. In Study 1, women performed worse on a difficult math test when it was described as diagnostic of math intelligence (stereotype threat condition) than in a non-diagnostic control condition. However, when women under stereotype threat affirmed a valued attribute, they performed at levels comparable to men and to women in the no-threat control condition. In Study 2, men and women worked on a spatial rotation test and were told that women were stereotyped as inferior on such tasks. Approximately half the women and men self-affirmed before beginning the test. Self-affirmation improved the performance of women under threat, but did not affect men’s performance.
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Evidence shows that self-affirmation has a positive effect on message acceptance and other variables that motivate health behavior change; however, this has not been translated into actual behavioral change. We propose that particular features of the previous studies may account for this failure; the current study addresses this. It is designed to test whether a self-affirmation manipulation can increase a health-promoting behavior (fruit and vegetable consumption). It also explores the extent to which efficacy variables mediate the self-affirmation and behavior relationship. Women (N = 93) were randomly allocated to a self-affirmation or control task prior to reading a message regarding the health-promoting effects of fruit and vegetables. MAIN OUTCOME-MEASURES: Response-efficacy, self-efficacy, and intention measures were taken immediately after exposure to the message, followed by a 7-day diary record of fruit and vegetable consumption. Self-affirmed participants ate significantly more portions of fruit and vegetables, an increase of approximately 5.5 portions across the week, in comparison to the control group. This effect was mediated by response-efficacy. Self-affirmation interventions can successfully influence health-promoting behaviors.
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Theories of internalization typically suggest that self-perceptions of the "causes" of (i.e. reasons for) behavior are differentiated along a continuum of autonomy that contains identifiable gradations. A model of perceived locus of causality (PLOC) is developed, using children's self-reported reasons for acting. In Project 1, external, introjected, identified, and intrinsic types of reasons for achievement-related behaviors are shown to conform to a simplex-like (ordered correlation) structure in four samples. These reason categories are then related to existing measures of PLOC and to motivation. A second project examines 3 reason categories (external, introject, and identification) within the domain of prosocial behavior. Relations with measures of empathy, moral judgement and positive interpersonal relatedness are presented. Finally, the proposed model and conceptualization of PLOC are discussed with regard to intrapersonal versus interpersonal perception, internalization, cause-reason distinctions, and the significance of perceived autonomy in human behavior.
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A general theory of domain identification is used to describe achievement barriers still faced by women in advanced quantitative areas and by African Americans in school. The theory assumes that sustained school success requires identification with school and its subdomains; that societal pressures on these groups (e.g., economic disadvantage, gender roles) can frustrate this identification; and that in school domains where these groups are negatively stereotyped, those who have become domain identified face the further barrier of stereotype threat, the threat that others' judgments or their own actions will negatively stereotype them in the domain. Research shows that this threat dramatically depresses the standardized test performance of women and African Americans who are in the academic vanguard of their groups (offering a new interpretation of group differences in standardized test performance), that it causes disidentification with school, and that practices that reduce this threat can reduce these negative effects.
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To test the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of after-school dance classes and a family-based intervention to reduce television viewing, thereby reducing weight gain, among African-American girls. Twelve-week, 2-arm parallel group, randomized controlled trial. Low-income neighborhoods. Sixty-one 8-10-year-old African-American girls and their parents/guardians. The treatment intervention consisted of after-school dance classes at 3 community centers, and a 5-lesson intervention, delivered in participants' homes, and designed to reduce television, videotape, and video game use. The active control intervention consisted of disseminating newsletters and delivering health education lectures. Implementation and process measures, body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity measured by accelerometry, self-reported media use, and meals eaten with TV. Recruitment and retention goals were exceeded. High rates of participation were achieved for assessments and intervention activities, except where transportation was lacking. All interventions received high satisfaction ratings. At follow up, girls in the treatment group, as compared to the control group, exhibited trends toward lower body mass index (adjusted difference = -.32 kg/m2, 95% confidence interval [CI] -.77, .12; Cohen's d = .38 standard deviation units) and waist circumference (adjusted difference = -.63 cm, 95% CI -1.92, .67; d = .25); increased after-school physical activity (adjusted difference = 55.1 counts/minute, 95% CI -115.6, 225.8; d = .21); and reduced television, videotape, and video game use (adjusted difference = -4.96 hours/week, 95% CI -11.41, 1.49; d = .40). The treatment group reported significantly reduced household television viewing (d = .73, P = .007) and fewer dinners eaten while watching TV (adjusted difference = -1.60 meals/week, 95% CI -2.99, -.21; d = .59; P = .03). Treatment group girls also reported less concern about weight (d = .60; P = .03), and a trend toward improved school grades (d = .51; P = .07). This study confirmed the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of using dance classes and a family-based intervention to reduce television viewing, thereby reducing weight gain, in African-American girls.
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Stress is implicated in the development and progression of a broad array of mental and physical health disorders. Theory and research on the self suggest that self-affirming activities may buffer these adverse effects. This study experimentally investigated whether affirmations of personal values attenuate physiological and psychological stress responses. Eighty-five participants completed either a value-affirmation task or a control task prior to participating in a laboratory stress challenge. Participants who affirmed their values had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress, compared with control participants. Dispositional self-resources (e.g., trait self-esteem and optimism) moderated the relation between value affirmation and psychological stress responses, such that participants who had high self-resources and had affirmed personal values reported the least stress. These findings suggest that reflecting on personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels. Implications for research on the self, stress processes, health, and interventions are discussed.
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The self-regulatory strength model maintains that all acts of self-regulation, self-control, and choice result in a state of fatigue called ego-depletion. Self-determination theory differentiates between autonomous regulation and controlled regulation. Because making decisions represents one instance of self-regulation, the authors also differentiate between autonomous choice and controlled choice. Three experiments support the hypothesis that whereas conditions representing controlled choice would be egodepleting, conditions that represented autonomous choice would not. In Experiment 3, the authors found significant mediation by perceived self-determination of the relation between the choice condition (autonomous vs. controlled) and ego-depletion as measured by performance.
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This article argues that (a) ego, or sel L is an organization oJ knowledge, (b) ego is characterized by cognitive biases strikingly analogous to totalitarian inJormation-control strategies, and (c) these totalitarian-ego biases Junction to preserve organization in cognitive structures. Ego's cognitive biases are ego- centricity (selJ as the Jocus oJ knowledge), "beneffectance " (perception oJ responsibility Jot desired, but not undesired, outcomes), and cognitive conservatism (resistance to cognitive change). In addition to being pervasively evident in recent studies oJ normal human cognition, these three biases are Jound in actively Junc- tioning, higher level organizations oJ knowledge, per- haps best exemplified by theoretical paradigms in science. The thesis that egocentricity, benelectance, and conservatism act to preserve knowledge organizations leads to the proposal oJ an intrapsychic analog o! genetic evolution, which in turn provides an alternative to prevalent motivational and inJormational interpreta- tions oJ cognitive biases.
Reconciling self-defense with self-criticism: Self-affirmation theory
  • D K Sherman
  • K A Hartson
Sherman, D. K., & Hartson, K. A. (2011). Reconciling self-defense with self-criticism: Self-affirmation theory. In M. D. Alicke (Ed.), Handbook of Self-Enhancement and Self-Protection, Guilford Press.