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Abstract

We present an "affirmation as perspective" model of how self-affirmations alleviate threat and defensiveness. Self-threats dominate the working self-concept, leading to a constricted self disproportionately influenced by the threat. Self-affirmations expand the size of the working self-concept, offering a broader perspective in which the threat appears more narrow and self-worth realigns with broader dispositional self-views (Experiment 1). Self-affirmed participants, relative to those not affirmed, indicated that threatened self-aspects were less all-defining of the self (although just as important), and this broader perspective on the threat mediated self-affirmation's reduction of defensiveness (Experiment 2). Finally, having participants complete a simple perspective exercise, which offered a broader perspective on the self without prompting affirmational thinking (Experiment 3a), reduced defensiveness in a manner equivalent to and redundant with a standard self-affirmation manipulation (Experiment 3b). The present model offers a unifying account for a wide variety of seemingly unrelated findings and mysteries in the self-affirmation literature.

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... In addition to undermining social belonging, stereotype threat also changes how individuals see themselves. Rather than a broad, multifaceted sense of self, someone experiencing stereotype threat instead is forced to focus an inordinate amount of attention on the negative perception others may have of them, which, in turn, creates a more narrow, constricted sense of self (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Walton, Paunesku, & Dweck, 2012). For the example of Black students experiencing stereotype threat, they may feel like all they are seen as at school is the negative stereotype of a Black student rather than a broader individual composed of the many aspects of their background and identities, including positive associations with their Black identity or background. ...
... Conversely, White students are predicted to experience stereotype lift in higher-stereotypesalient schools and benefit from positive stereotypes about their racial group in those contexts. stereotyped students' sense of self is also narrowed under threat, such that they feel like their self-concept is largely composed of a negative stereotypes rather than a broad variety of components (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Walton et al., 2012). In summary, students experiencing stereotype threat should feel less school trust (i.e., lower perceived trust and support from their teachers in school), less social belonging (i.e., lower acceptance in school), and a more narrow sense of self (i.e., a focus on a smaller number rather than a larger number of identities and backgrounds). ...
... In this study, we collected the three aforementioned measures of student's sense of stereotype threat: school trust (i.e., do students feel like their teachers and other adults at school are fair and supportive?), social belonging (i.e., do students feel accepted or like an outsider in school?), and a broad (vs. narrow) sense of self (i.e., do students have broad and multifaceted identities in school?), which has been shown to be constricted under stereotype threat (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). ...
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Stereotype threat posits that students who are members of negatively stereotyped groups in school should feel more threat and less belonging, especially in schools with large achievement disparities and low racial/ethnic minority representation. This research has focused primarily on the experiences of negatively stereotyped monoracial minority students, but for a biracial Black/White student who claims both a negatively stereotyped (e.g., Black) and a positively stereotyped (e.g., White) identity, do these outcomes vary? We assessed 1,399 biracial Black/White, monoracial Black, and monoracial White middle school students’ perceptions of threat and belonging in school, across four lower-stereotype-salient schools (i.e., racially diverse schools) and seven higher-stereotype-salient schools (i.e., racially homogeneous schools). Biracial students reported a similar amount of threat across school contexts, whereas monoracial students’ threat was differentially context dependent. These findings suggest biracial students may face unique identity-related threats in school and point to a need to develop supports specific to their experiences.
... Nevertheless, mechanisms underlying the benefits of self-affirmation have not been elucidated. Evidence suggests that when people focus on valued aspects of the self, they view negative information and events in their lives from a broader perspective (Sherman, 2013;Critcher, Dunning, 2015). It is also proposed that affirming important values enhances psychological resources available to an individual to confront a threat. ...
... The second aim was to examine the degree to which the effects of self-affirmation on depression, anxiety, and well-being are sequentially mediated through putting into perspective (cognitive emotion regulation strategy), and body-related emotions. Building on preliminary evidence that self-affirmation affects emotion regulation processes (Morgan, Atkin, 2016) and provides a broader perspective on self-threat (Critcher, Dunning, 2015), and emotional attitude towards the body is one of the key risk factors contributing to psoriasis patients' mental health outcomes (Łakuta et al., 2016;Łakuta, Przybyła-Basista, 2017), it was hypothesized that putting into perspective and emotional attitude towards the body jointly, sequentially operate as the mediators between self-affirmation and psoriasis patients' mental health and well-being. Specifically, it was hypothesized that putting into perspective, resulting from engaging in spontaneous self-affirmation, would translate into decreased negative emotional attitude towards the body, and finally would be related to greater well-being and lower levels of depression and anxiety. ...
... The results of the current study support these assumptions. Moreover, consistent with the present pattern of findings, in a series of experimental studies, Critcher and Dunning (2015) found that self-affirmation brings about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, offering a broader perspective in which the threat appears more narrow and self-worth is adjusted into broader dispositional self-views. Self-affirmed participants, relative to those not affirmed, indicated that threatened self-aspects were less all-defining of the self (although just as important). ...
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Emerging evidence suggests that tendencies to spontaneously self-affirm in the face of threat may enable people to view it in a quite different manner, with a greater perspective, in the context of psychosocial resources as well as approach it more effectively, with fewer self-evaluative implications. The aim of the study was to examine whether and how self-affirmation tendency is related to well-being and mental health outcomes (depression and anxiety) in psoriasis patients sample. Fifty-one patients with psoriasis aged 19–67 years completed the full battery of self-report questionnaires measuring body-related emotions, cognitive coping strategies, spontaneous self-affirmation, well-being, depression, anxiety, and disease severity. Engaging in spontaneous self-affirmation was related to better well-being, and less depression and anxiety. Results of multiple mediation analyses with sequential mediators (putting into perspective as a mediator in the first sequence; body-related emotions as a mediator in the second sequence) revealed that the effects of self-affirmation in psoriasis patients may be explained by mechanisms, which include processes of fostering a higher use of putting into perspective and decreasing negative body-related emotions. These findings highlight the adaptive role of self-affirmation in the context of chronic illness, such as psoriasis, and suggest several potentially fruitful avenues for future research.
... For students, nonacademic values might include being creative, religious values, or relationships with family and friends. Affirming these values is thought to broaden students' self-perspective and decrease their focus on feeling threatened and negative about themselves (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Sherman & Cohen, 2006; see also Steele, 1988;Walton et al., 2012). By calling to mind nonthreatened personal values, students can more easily view threats in the broader context of their lives and return to thinking about the "big picture" rather than perseverating on and responding defensively to the threat (Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009). ...
... Similarly, students under social identity threat-that is, students who may be treated or viewed differently based on a marginalized or stereotyped identity (Steele et al., 2002)benefit most from affirmation exercises in school contexts, as found in a number of studies (e.g., Cohen et al., 2006;Miyake et al., 2010;Sherman et al., 2013). Other studies have found that all students can benefit from affirmation interventions when delivered prior to a particular stressor (Creswell et al., 2005;Manke et al., in press;Sherman et al., 2009), and that all students can have immediate psychological benefits from affirmation interventions (e.g., Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Crocker et al., 2008). By buffering students against defensive responses that lead to negative recursive cycles in the wake of such threat, affirmation interventions may promote lasting benefits by changing students' educational trajectories. ...
... First, the ninth grade students in our study were in the transition year of their high school, which in itself may be a particularly threatening experience for all students , and thus values affirmation activities may be similarly beneficial for all students under this threat. Second, experimental studies have often shown main effects on many immediate engagement and psychological outcomes (e.g., Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Crocker et al., 2008), which was the focus in the current study. Relatedly, some field interventions have found that all students may engage with affirmation activities similarly (e.g., Shnabel et al., 2013;Tibbetts et al., 2016), even when only subgroups of students go on to additionally benefit with higher grades. ...
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Values‐affirmation interventions have the potential to improve students’ experience and achievement in school. Researchers have proposed that these benefits are greatest when affirmation exercises are delivered by teachers (versus researchers). The current research provides an experimental test of whether describing affirmation activities as provided by teachers increases students’ engagement with the activities and students’ positive perceptions of their teachers. In a 2×2 field experiment, delivered to students during their first year of high school, students completed either an affirmation or matched control activity purportedly provided by either teachers or researchers. We found that describing affirmation activities as provided by teachers led students to perceive that teachers at their school were more interested in students’ broader lives outside of school and provided marginally more care and support to students, as compared to the same affirmation exercise described as provided by researchers and control activities attributed to either source. In addition, teacher‐provided affirmation activities prompted students to write more during the activities. The present study provides initial evidence that affirmation interventions can improve students’ perceptions of their relationship with their teachers—a potent driver of student success—but only when affirmation activities are seen as coming from and of interest to teachers.
... Subsequently, participants write a brief essay in which they explain why the top-ranked value or characteristic is important to them. Participants in the non-affirmed condition reflect on a medium-or bottom-ranking value or characteristic [43,44]. McQueen and Klein [42], Sherman and Cohen [40], Sherman [39] and Cohen [36] summarise the burgeoning literature on self-affirmation theory and interventions. ...
... An individual's sense of self-worth may be severely damaged by being deprived of a defining domain in one's self system, such as being a valued employee or breadwinner. According to Critcher and Dunning's [43] 'affirmation as perspective' model, the damaged identity may dominate one's self-concept and narrow the scope towards the threatened domain, thereby letting it loom disproportionately large. As a result, self-evaluations are more contingent on the threatened domain than on a larger concept of the self. ...
... Self-affirmation has been shown to affect self-worth [62] and some evidence also suggests that self-affirmative messages can have a stress-buffering effect [55,63,64]. Moreover, feelings of social exclusion may be reduced through self-affirmation as it buttresses a person's self-integrity [43,65]. ...
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Stereotypes and stigma associated with living on welfare or a low income can be a psychological threat that hampers performance and undermines aspirations. Our paper explores the potential of a novel self-affirmation intervention to mitigate such adverse impacts. The intervention comprises a verbal self-affirmation exercise for applicants during their first meeting with a caseworker. We conduct a cluster-randomised trial among a sample of 174 applicants for social assistance benefits in a Social Services office in Maastricht, the Netherlands. We measure outcomes on feelings of self-worth, stress, societal belonging, job search behaviour self-efficacy and cognitive performance immediately after the meeting. In our full sample, the intervention has a negative impact on feelings of societal belonging, but no effect on other outcomes. Effects, however, vary by subgroups. Our treatment increases negative feelings of self-worth and negatively affects societal belonging, but also improves cognitive performance among the group that had paid work in the previous two years. By contrast, self-affirmation positively impacts job search behaviour self-efficacy and cognitive performance for individuals who face increased challenges to (re)integrate into the labour market, proxied by lower levels of education or social assistance receipt in the previous two years. Since our intervention gives rise to testing more than one null hypothesis, we control the false discovery rate using the Benjamini-Hochberg approach. Our findings are sobering. Effects only remain significant for negative feelings of self-worth and improved cognitive performance for one particular subgroup: individuals with paid work in the past two years. This suggests self-affirmation may have reminded them of the time they still had a job, hence creating a backlash effect on feelings of self-worth. At the same time, they may have felt a need to distinguish themselves from others on social assistance benefits resulting in better cognitive performance. These interpretations are consistent with theory and empirical evidence on social identity and self-categorisation. We discuss the implications of our results and outline avenues for future work.
... It should be noted that the distinctions between "selfesteem" and "self-worth" are not clearly delineated in the literature and appear to share considerable overlap. However, these constructs are related to the broader domain of self-affirmations, which are known to protect one's sense of self-worth in the presence of stressors that pose a threat to an individual's overall self-concept (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Self-affirmation constructs are also more frequently assessed as a predictor in many analytic models, rather than an outcome. ...
... A holistic model of psychological functioning generally includes both positive and negative affective and dispositional states (Ryff, 1989;Ryff & Keyes, 1995), and these variables may be positioned as either predictors or outcomes, depending on the types of research questions being asked. Critcher and Dunning's (2015) recent research on selfaffirmation resulted in their construction of a feelings of self-worth measure that includes both positive and negative markers of self-worth. A measure that captures this more nuanced conceptualization of the value of one's self may be superior to traditional measures of self-esteem for a number of reasons. ...
... A measure that captures this more nuanced conceptualization of the value of one's self may be superior to traditional measures of self-esteem for a number of reasons. For one, Critcher and Dunning's (2015) self-worth measure captures a broader emotional range that may better represent the feelings experienced by gay/bisexual who experience RSD, including shame, humiliation, and inferiority. In contrast, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale, a more widely used measure of assessing an individual's perceived value, is slightly more limited in scope (Rosenberg, 1979). ...
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Young Black gay/bisexual men (YBGBM) are a highly marginalized population across multiple health outcomes. Most research on YBGBM health has focused on HIV/sexual health, but there is a demonstrable need for research examining racism and psychosocial functioning among this population. Racialized Sexual Discrimination (RSD), also known as sexual racism, is an important but under‐investigated phenomenon that may have implications for the psychological health and well‐being of YBGBM. This paper provides an overview of empirical research on RSD as experienced by gay/bisexual men of color in online partner‐seeking venues. First, the researchers discuss how racialized experiences are a documented online phenomenon, with a variety of manifestations, and identify the potential effects that this phenomenon may have on the psychosocial health of YBGBM, and gay/bisexual men of color as a whole. Second, the researchers synthesize the RSD literature with a broader literature examining psychological well‐being across race and sexual orientation. Third, the researchers present a theoretically grounded conceptual model detailing the pathways between RSD and psychological well‐being using a stress and coping framework. The paper concludes with recommendations for future research on this topic, including scale development and hypothesis testing. Racialized Sexual Discrimination (RSD) is a multidimensional yet understudied construct. RSD, also known as sexual racism, is widely perpetuated in online hook‐up websites for gay men. RSD may negatively impact the psychological health of gay/bisexual men of color. There is an imperative to develop robust measurement tools to capture the full extent of RSD. A conceptual and analytic model to guide scientific inquiry into RSD is proposed.
... And, here is what self-affirmation can offer. According to the perspective model of self-affirmation effects (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), whereas selfthreats can constrict the self-concept to focus on threatened aspects, affirmations restore a broader perspective on the self; which as a result blunting the impact of a constricted self that was disproportionately influenced by the threat, thereby permitting a person to draw on its broader dispositional resources. In a series of elegant experiments, Critcher and Dunning (2015) gave support to the notion that affirming self does not result in inflated selfworth, but expands self-concept in battle by recognizing additional identities in the self (e.g. ...
... According to the perspective model of self-affirmation effects (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), whereas selfthreats can constrict the self-concept to focus on threatened aspects, affirmations restore a broader perspective on the self; which as a result blunting the impact of a constricted self that was disproportionately influenced by the threat, thereby permitting a person to draw on its broader dispositional resources. In a series of elegant experiments, Critcher and Dunning (2015) gave support to the notion that affirming self does not result in inflated selfworth, but expands self-concept in battle by recognizing additional identities in the self (e.g. resourceful, efficacious, honest, a good partner/son/daughter, etc.). ...
... Besides primary outcomes, the study tested secondary effects of the intervention in terms of positive prosocial-and selfdirected feelings, and emotional attitude toward the body. Moreover, given that under threat, the size of the working selfconcept is constricted and that the effect can be undermined through self-affirmation that restores a broader view on the self, enabling to draw on extensive dispositional resources and to promote defocusing and adopting broader perspective (Critcher & Dunning, 2015); it seems valuable to examine potential cognitive processes that may reflect those effects. This study evaluated whether self-affirmations alter thought (cognitive) processes in terms of cognitive emotion regulation strategies, e.g. ...
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Background: There are relatively few studies to address mental health implications of self-affirming, especially across groups experiencing a chronic health condition. In this study, short- and longer-term effects of a brief self-affirmation intervention framed in terms of implementation intentions (if-then plans with self-affirming cognitions; S-AII) were evaluated against an active control group (non-affirming implementation intentions; N-AII), matched to the target condition, and mere goal intention condition (a non-active control) in adults with psoriasis. The three pre-registered primary outcomes captured depression, anxiety, and well-being. Methods: Adults with psoriasis (N = 175; Mage = 36.53, S.D. = 11.52) were randomized into S-AII, N-AII, or control. Participants' mental health outcomes were assessed prior to randomization (at baseline), at week 2 (post-intervention), and at a 1-month follow-up. Results: Linear mixed models were used and results were reported on the intention-to-treat principle. Analyses revealed that S-AII exerted significantly more improvement in the course of well-being (ds > 0.25), depressive symptoms (ds > −0.40), and anxiety (ds > −0.45) than the N-AII and control group at 2-week post-intervention. Though the differences between groups faded at 1-month follow-up, the within-group changes over time for S-AII in all mental health outcomes remained significant. Conclusions: Brief and low-intensity S-AII intervention exerted in the short-term a considerable impact on mental health outcomes. The S-AII shows promising results as a relevant public mental health strategy for enhancing well-being and reducing psychological distress. Future studies could consider whether these effects can be further enhanced with booster interventions.
... Within school contexts, stigmatized students might view themselves as less complex because of negative stereotypes about their group, which might focus their attention on this negative aspect of their identity. When a lack of self-complexity includes viewing oneself as something negative (e.g., as a bad student), it can have harmful effects on behavior and academic performance (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Steele & Aronson, 1995). Studies have shown that higher levels of self-complexity are related to lower levels of depression under high-stress circumstances (Linville, 1987) and reduced perceived threat and defensiveness (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). ...
... When a lack of self-complexity includes viewing oneself as something negative (e.g., as a bad student), it can have harmful effects on behavior and academic performance (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Steele & Aronson, 1995). Studies have shown that higher levels of self-complexity are related to lower levels of depression under high-stress circumstances (Linville, 1987) and reduced perceived threat and defensiveness (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Theory predicts that if multiple aspects of individuals' identities are salient when they are threatened, they can more easily turn to a non-threatened aspect of their identity in order to escape or buffer themselves from the negative effects of feeling threatened in one domain (Walton, Paunesku, & Dweck, 2012). ...
... Theory predicts that if multiple aspects of individuals' identities are salient when they are threatened, they can more easily turn to a non-threatened aspect of their identity in order to escape or buffer themselves from the negative effects of feeling threatened in one domain (Walton, Paunesku, & Dweck, 2012). Self-complexity can be increased by an intervention that asks students to write about various important aspects of their identities (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), which has been found to improve school trust for racial minority students and reduce the racial achievement gap in schools by up to 40% (i.e., self-affirmation: Cohen et al., 2009;Cook et al., 2012). Locus of control is the degree to which a person believes that he or she can control events, such as getting a good grade in school, and can be internal (i.e., an individual has control) or external (i.e., an individual does not have control). ...
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Although it is important to accurately assess and promote student achievement, it is also critical to accurately assess and promote student social and emotional well-being and positive attitudes about school. Recent research has shown the promise of school-based interventions to improve certain student academic attitudes but has also raised concerns about a lack of reliable measures of these attitudes for early adolescents. We compiled the Malleable Social-Psychological Academic Attitudes (MSPAA) survey to measure school trust, social belonging, evaluation anxiety, self-complexity, locus of control, and identification with school. We adapted MSPAA measures to make them more appropriate for early adolescents in the school context, assessed the measurement properties of the MSPAA survey, and examined how student responses differed based on various demographic factors. We found that this brief survey reliably measured these constructs among early adolescents (N = 2158). Additionally, differences by grade level, school context, gender, and racial group revealed insightful patterns of variation that have implications for social and psychological theory, as well as for practices in schools. We close by suggesting further study of this survey for use among education researchers and within schools.
... Self-affirming personally important domains makes an individual reflect on such things as personally important values and principles, strengths and attributes, or social relationships, providing a broader perspective on one's self (and also on possible strategies and activities). Critcher and Dunning (2015) suggested that when an individual experiences a threat to an important aspect of self-conception/image, a threatened identity dominates the working self-concept, thereby providing a narrow perspective on the self with an accompanying depressed sense of worth. Self-affirming, as presumed, injects into the working self-concept compensating sources of self-evaluation, reminding people that the threatened domain is not all that defines the self. ...
... resourceful, honest, and a good partner/worker) active to help break a constricted self and dampen the evaluative impact of the threat, self-worth may restore with much broader dispositional self-views (cf. Critcher & Dunning, 2015). ...
... To date, positive effects of self-affirmations have been shown for a variety of contexts that are relevant for mental health and well-being (for a review, see Howell, 2017). Several studies have found that affirming core values upon threat broadens the perceived bases of self-worth (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), reduces anxiety, helps people to deal with stressful situations (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Morgan & Atkin, 2016;Morgan & Harris, 2015;Sherman, 2013), and also increases self-directed (Lindsay & Creswell, 2014) and other-directed positive feelings, suggesting the mediating mechanisms of self-affirmation effects on mental well-being by positive affect (Crocker et al., 2008;Thomaes et al., 2012). However, there still is sparse evidence on such effects in individuals dealing with chronic conditions. ...
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Effective antiretroviral treatment has increased the life expectancy of people living with HIV, and currently, the challenges of prominent importance appear to be mental health issues. This preregistered study among adults living with HIV/AIDS investigated the effectiveness of a brief self‐affirmation intervention framed in terms of if–then plans (i.e. self‐affirming implementation intentions [S‐AII]) against both active and non‐active control conditions, forming non‐affirming implementation intentions and mere goal intentions, respectively. The primary outcomes were defined as a reduction of depressive symptoms and enhancement of well‐being, along with secondary outcomes as positive other‐ and self‐directed feelings. A total of 162 individuals were assessed for eligibility, and 130 (aged 18–74 years) were randomized to the study conditions. Intervention effects were estimated through intention‐to‐treat analysis, using linear mixed models. The S‐AII intervention yielded improvements in overall well‐being over 2 weeks (d = .23), primarily driven by positive changes in emotional (d = .24) and social (d = .30) dimensions of well‐being. There were no significant differences in depression or secondary outcomes. Based on a minimal clinically important difference index, the S‐AII intervention resulted in improvement in well‐being in approximately 40 percent of participants. Nevertheless, further systematic research is needed to optimize self‐affirmation‐interventions, before their application in real‐life contexts.
... Going back to the theoretical model (3), self-esteem indeed may affect how people respond to self-affirming cognitions because self-affirmation changes the accessibility of alternative, positive identities rather than boosts, inflates, or repairs dispositional self-esteem [c.f. (1,4,5)]. Therefore, although tentative, the results suggest that self-affirmations (though positive) could backfire for the very people who as assumed need them the most. ...
... Considering other possible explanations the role of awareness in the process of self-affirmation has to be noted. Researchers have argued that a heightened awareness of an act of self-affirmation in the face of self-evaluative threat could lead people to link the affirmation to the threatened domain rather than broadening their perspective on the threat (4,60). If people perceive that they are engaged in an emotion regulation task and/or a stress-reduction exercise, they may be more aware of their stressors and negative self-views rather than their self-resources, personal values, or important relationships that should be made salient by the act of self-affirmation. ...
... The strengths of this study also include using a control group matched to the target condition. 4 Notably, the study has sufficient (assumed) statistical power, which cannot explain the non-significant (main) results, 5 though it would be the easiest way of explanation. Moreover, the adopted statistical approach (i.e., LMM) enabled the use of all data of each participant in parameter estimation and significance testing, so that the main analyses were performed using the data of all randomized participants, producing more reliable estimates [c.f. ...
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This study builds on growing evidence on implementation-intention-based self-affirmation intervention effects on mental health. Using a factorial design, this pre-registered study aimed to further investigate whether (1) strengthening the element of specificity within body-related self-affirming implementation intention (BS-AII) intervention compared to general self-affirming implementation intention (S-AII) would provide greater improvements in mental health outcomes for adults with psoriasis, and (2) whether the addition of a booster component would result in enhancing effectiveness at follow-up. A total of 306 adults with psoriasis were assessed for eligibility and 222 (aged 18–71 years) were randomized and received S-AII, BS-AII, or MGI (mere goal intention—control condition). Within each group, participants were again randomized to booster (B) or no-booster condition in a 3 × 2 factorial design, resulting in six groups: S-AII; S-AII + B; BS-AII; BS-AII + B; MGI; and MGI + B. Data were collected over three-time points, at baseline, 2 weeks post-intervention, and at 1-month later. Three primary outcomes were defined as a reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms and enhancement of well-being. In terms of secondary outcomes, positive other- and self-directed feelings and also an emotional attitude toward the body were evaluated. To fully estimate intervention effects through intention-to-treat analysis, linear mixed models were used. A significant effect of time was observed, but no evidence of time-by-group interactions and no three-way interactions were detected. Exploratory analyses revealed two significant moderating effects of age and self-esteem, pointing to boundary conditions of the interventions. These findings offer to gain deeper insights on null (or negative) effects also reported in past works and highlight that self-affirmation interventions should be more thoroughly investigated and optimized before they can be broadly implemented in real-life contexts, especially to prevent backfiring and negative-enhancing effects.
... BIS-activating threats also heighten belligerent defenses (Jonas et al., 2014) and so some research has focused on whether self-transcendent focus effects on magnanimity might arise from muted BIS-activation. Value-focus does reduce several BIS-linked phenomena, including anxious distress, ruminative preoccupation, and defensive avoidance of self-threatening information (Alquist et al., 2018;Creswell et al., 2005;Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Crowell et al., 2015;Finley, Crowell, & Schmeichel, 2018;Koole, Smeets, Van Knippenberg, & Dijksterhuis, 1999;McGregor, 2006a;McGregor et al., 2001;Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009;Sherman et al., 2013;Sherman, Bunyan, Creswell, & Jaremka, 2009;Simon, Greenberg, & Brehm, 1995). It has also improved cardiovascular recovery after threatening interpersonal evaluations (Tang & Schmeichel, 2015) and lowered amygdala reactivity to threatening health messages (especially among people with trait-tendencies oriented toward self-transcendentvalues; Kang et al., 2017). ...
... Future research should assess patterns of BAS activation and BIS-linked distress over time, as serial mediators. Future research should also test whether other meaning-andtranscendence-related interventions might produce similar effects (e.g., integrity, virtue, inspiration, ideals, morality, prosocial intentions, love, belongingness, broadened perspective, significance, sanctification, religious devotion, and other forms of spirituality or eudaimonic motivation; Costin & Vignoles, 2020;Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Crocker et al., 2008;Grant, 2012;Hernandez, Mahoney, & Pargament, 2011;Kang et al., 2018;McGregor & Little, 1998;McGregor et al., 2012;Nelson, Fuller, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2014;Park, 2005;Thrash, Elliot, Maruskin, & Cassidy, 2010;Walton & Cohen, 2011;Yeager et al., 2014). ...
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Fidelity with self-transcendent values is hailed as a hallmark of mature and magnanimous character by classic psychological and philosophical theories. Dozens of contemporary experiments inspired by self-affirmation theory have also found that when people are under threat, focus on self-transcendent values can confer magnanimity by improving psychological buoyancy (less anxious and more courageous, determined, and effective) and decreasing belligerence (less defensive, extreme, and hostile). The present research was guided by the postulate that both aspects of magnanimity—its buoyancy and its freedom from belligerence—arise from the approach motivated states that self-transcendent foci can inspire. Experimental manipulations of self-transcendent foci (values, spirituality, compassion) heightened state approach motivation as assessed by electroencephalography (Study 1, n = 187) and self-report (Study 2, n = 490). Further, even though the heightened approach motivation was transient, it mediated a longer-lasting freedom from moral (Study 1) and religious (Study 2) belligerence. Importantly, self-transcendent-focus effects on approach motivation and belligerence occurred only among participants with high trait meaning search scores. Results support an interpretation of meaningful values and spiritual ideals as self-transcendent priorities that operate according to basic motivational mechanics of abstract-goal pursuit. The transient, approach-motivated state aroused by transcendence-focus causes longer lasting relief from preoccupation with threat, leaving people feeling buoyant and generous. Relevance of results for self-affirmation theory and the psychology of spirituality are discussed.
... a revised version of the one distributed in Critcher and Dunning (2015). In the present study, perspective thinking subscale showed a Cronbach's α of 0.93, and affirmational thinking subscale had a Cronbach's α of 0.87. ...
... Self-affirmation can restore or sustain feelings of self-worth (Steele, 1988). We included a revised version of the self-worth questionnaire (SWQ; Critcher & Dunning, 2015) to confirm the findings of previous research and to serve as a self-affirmation manipulation check. The ...
Article
Self-affirmation is the act of focusing on important aspects of the self, such as personal values and characteristics. We used a within-participants design (N = 125) to examine cardiovascular reactivity and self-reported affective responses to the practice of self-affirmation. In the self-affirmation condition, we asked participants to write about their top-ranked personal value for 5 minutes and used a writing exercise unrelated to personal values in the control condition. The International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang et al., 2005) was used to induce positive and negative emotion. Results showed that participants had greater high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) when practicing self-affirmation. During negative emotion induction, self-affirmation also led to lower maximum heart rate, higher RSA, and lower ratings of negative affect. Our findings suggest that the act of focusing on an important aspect of self has beneficial effects on psychological and physiological well-being. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Self-affirmation is a way of bolstering the self by making a positive and important self-domain salient. Having a positive self-aspect thwarts the influx of self-related negative thoughts in the case of a threat (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Self-affirmed individuals perceive threatening situations in an unbiased manner. ...
... Thus, instead of affirming the personal self, the selfaffirmation procedure may have affirmed the relational self (Sedikides, Gaertner, Luke, O'Mara, & Gebauer, 2013). Second, the results were at odds with other works (beyond the ambit of cognitive dissonance research), by showing that self-affirmation did not lead our participants either to trivialize (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Koole, Smeets, Van Knippenberg, & Dijksterhuis, 1999) or to change attitude (e.g., Steele & Liu, 1983). ...
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Individuals may knowingly engage in eco-unfriendly behaviors even though they endorse the injunctive norm that people should protect the environment. Although they presumably experience cognitive dissonance, they often fail to change either their environment-related behavior or their support for the injunctive norm. In the first of two experiments, we compared a low-choice condition (low dissonance arousal) with a standard high-choice condition and a high-choice condition with injunctive norm (high dissonance arousal). Results showed that acting freely in an eco-unfriendly and counterattitudinal manner resulted in less acceptance of responsibility, but responsibility was not denied if the injunctive norm was made salient. We hypothesized that this was driven by a desire to maintain self-integrity. In the second experiment (preregistered study), we sought to test this hypothesis by manipulating self-affirmation and the salience of the injunctive norm in a high-choice situation. Results confirmed that participants protected their self-integrity by denying responsibility or relying on the injunctive norm. Moreover, attitude toward waste recycling was more positive when the injunctive norm was salient, regardless of self-affirmation.
... Recent research suggests that self-affirmation reduces stress for stigmatized group members through perspective broadening (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). By prompting students to write about primarily nonacademic values or attributes, self-affirmation exercises remind them that the overall self-concept consists of more than just the academic domain. ...
... In so doing, the intervention can broaden one's perspective beyond feeling like a negatively stereotyped student in school. When the threat is put into perspective, it decreases in prominence, and its effect on students' cognitive resources also decreases (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Consequently, the academic performance of stereotype-threatened students increases after a self-affirmation exercise (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). ...
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Self-affirmation shows promise for reducing racial academic-achievement gaps; recently, however, mixed results have raised questions about the circumstances under which the self-affirmation intervention produces lasting benefits at scale. In this follow-up to the first district-wide scale-up of a self-affirmation intervention, we examined whether initial academic benefits in middle school carried over into high school, we tested for differential impacts moderated by school context, and we assessed the causal effects of student engagement with the self-affirming writing prompted by the intervention. Longitudinal results indicate that self-affirmation reduces the growth of the racial achievement gap by 50% across the high school transition (N = 920). Additionally, impacts are greatest within school contexts that cued stronger identity threats for racial minority students, and student engagement is causally associated with benefits. Our results imply the potential for powerful, lasting academic impacts from self-affirmation interventions if implemented broadly; however, these effects will depend on both contextual and individual factors.
... Self-affirmation theory predicts that self-affirming activities such as writing about important personal values allows people to view threats from the perspective of a broader unthreatened identity (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), which may boost adaptive functioning, which includes "feeling good" and functioning well (Howell, 2017). Therefore, we hypothesized that in comparison to those completing emotionally expressive writing, those completing self-affirmation writing would report higher positive mood and lower negative mood over time. ...
... Because writing can involve numerous psychological process, there may be numerous underlying psychological processes that differ when participants receive instructions to complete self-affirmation versus emotionally expressive writing. For example, self-affirmation has been theorized to be beneficial due to its ability to broaden construal, which allows one to view stressors in light of the "big picture" of one's life (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), encourage thoughts of social belonging (Shnabel, Purdie-Vaughns, Cook, Garcia, & Cohen, 2013), and elicit positive other-directed feelings (Crocker, Niiya, & Mischkowski, 2008). In contrast, the salutary effects of emotionally expressive writing have been theorized to arise from other mechanisms such as habituating to a stressful event via exposure (Niles et al., 2015), reducing active inhibition, and increasing insight and the coherence of one's stories (Pennebaker, 1997). ...
Article
Testing self-affirmation writing against well-established alternatives is an important step in validating self-affirmation writing as an empirically informed clinical exercise. Therefore, this multi-wave study examined the effects of two theoretically distinct writing exercises: self-affirmation and emotionally expressive writing. It was hypothesized that, compared to emotionally expressive writing, self-affirmation writing would elicit higher positive mood and lower negative mood while decreasing psychological distress over time. After completing pretest measures of distress, 152 undergraduates were randomly assigned to a self-affirmation or emotionally expressive writing task. Participants completed the assigned writing intervention three times: at Session 1, 1 week later at Session 2, and 1 week after that at Session 3. Mood and distress were assessed across four points in time: immediately after the first writing task (Session 1), 1 week later after the second writing task (Session 2), after the third writing task (Session 3), and 1 week following Session 3 (Session 4). A growth curve indicated that at Session 2, those completing self-affirmation writing reported lower distress than those completing emotionally expressive writing, and this difference did not significantly increase or decrease in subsequent sessions. The difference at Session 2 was more pronounced for those reporting lower distress than for those reporting higher distress.
... Self-affirmation interventions have far-reaching and long-lasting effects through two sets of mechanisms: first, psychological processes that lead to enduring changes in how people perceive social experience and, second, positive feedback loops between the selfsystem and the social system. 2 Several psychological responses occur as a consequence of a self-affirmation intervention (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Sherman & Hartson, 2011). First, affirmations evoke a more expansive self-conception (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Thinking about the value of religion, or the importance of relationships, for example, helps people to realize that they have many sources of self-regard. ...
... Beyond increasing the psychological salience of self-resources, self-affirmation interventions also give people a more expansive frame for viewing a specific threat, helping them to "put it in perspective" (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Sherman et al., 2013;Wakslak & Trope, 2009). When people experience a threatening situation, they tend to fixate on it, a state of vigilance in which the threat commands their attention (Cohen & Garcia, 2008;Kaiser & Major, 2006;Murphy, Steele, & Gross, 2007). ...
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.
... Research on self-affirmation typically seeks to induce heightened states of self-affirmation by drawing attention to a personally highly ranked value and recalling one or two occasions in life where that value was demonstrated (McQueen & Klein, 2006). Highlighting experiences in which personal behavior is congruent with an important value is thought to help strengthen the self-concept (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). ...
... One possibility already discussed is that self-affirmation prevents the working memory of an individual who perceives threat from being consumed with preoccupations related to that threat, thereby allowing for more effective deployment of working memory and functioning in the moment. Critcher and Dunning (2015) found that self-affirmation has its effect by maintaining a larger working self-concept, so that the current threat being experienced is only a part of the working self-concept, not the whole or nearly the whole of it. As noted by Cohen and Sherman (2014), it is likely that there is more than one mechanism, and that the key mechanisms may interact or change depending on the type of threat being faced. ...
Article
Introduction: Persons with social anxiety disorder (SAD) often experience social interactions as threatening and commonly avoid them or perform poorly in them (Asher et al., 2017). Self-affirmation is an intervention shown to help individuals engage effectively in situations they perceive as threatening (Sherman & Hartson, 2011). We hypothesized that self-affirmation would allow socially anxious individuals to participate in more social activities, do so more effectively, and with less stress and anxiety. Methods: Following completion of baseline measures, 75 socially anxious university students were randomly assigned to complete a self-affirming or control writing task. They subsequently completed the Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G), and received SAD psychoeducation designed to promote social engagement over the coming month, after which they were reassessed on baseline measures of social anxiety. Results Self-affirmation demonstrated no benefit at the time of engagement in the TSST-G. However, at follow-up, self-affirmed students reported significantly less discomfort, anxiety, and distress related to a variety of social behaviors as well as more engagement in those behaviors, relative to baseline, compared with non-affirmed students. Moreover, significantly more affirmed than non-affirmed participants reported clinically significant reductions in symptoms of SAD at follow-up. Discussion These results help to broaden our conceptualization of self-affirmation and provide support for its potential utility in treatment for those with SAD.
... Two other, related processes through which self-affirmation interventions have been found to affect academic achievement are psychological untethering and a broadening of perspective. The predictions that gave rise to these findings are based on the assumption that threats tend to absorb people's attention: people become fixated on the threat and whatever may confirm or compound it (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). This results in a heightened sense of vigilance that causes people to interpret innocuous events as threatening and confirming of their fears of not being valued or not fitting in within education. ...
... This results in a heightened sense of vigilance that causes people to interpret innocuous events as threatening and confirming of their fears of not being valued or not fitting in within education. Self-affirmation broadens people's perspective beyond the immediate threat, which effectively dilutes the impact of the threat on attention and cognition and brings other sources of self-integrity into awareness (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). This was first demonstrated in the context of educational settings by Sherman and colleagues (Sherman et al., 2013; see also Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009;Wakslak & Trope, 2009), who found that threatened students (using daily survey assessments) in the affirmation condition used higher-level construals than threatened students in the control condition, and that the correlations between measures of daily adversity and measures of identity threat and belonging within school were only significant among Latino American students in the control condition. ...
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Self‐affirmation, operationalized as value‐affirmation interventions, can have long‐term beneficial effects on the academic performance and trajectories of members of negatively stereotyped groups, thus reducing achievement gaps. Yet, there is significant heterogeneity in the effectiveness of value affirmations, and we do not yet have a clear understanding of why. In this introduction to the special issue, we review the literature on self‐affirmation theory in educational contexts, providing overviews of the heterogeneity in the effectiveness of affirmation interventions, the methods of implementation, potential moderators, and underling processes. We identify several questions that are important for researchers to address, the answers to which would progress the field towards being able to more confidently implement value‐affirmations in contexts in which, and/or for groups for whom, they are most likely to produce benefits. We then introduce the articles included in this special issue, which showcase several of the latest theoretical and empirical advances to self‐affirmation theory in educational contexts.
... In addition to outcomes such as depressive symptomatology, positive self-affirmations are an important component of a holistic understanding of mental health (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Steele, 1988). Positive self-affirmations often include outcomes such as self-worth and self-esteem. ...
... Data was collected on participants' self-reported feelings of self-worth to create a Self-Worth score. The score was created using the Feelings of Self-Worth Measure, where the mean of 14 items was computed to generate a self-worth mean index, ranging from 1 to 9 (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Participants were asked to indicate the degree to which they agree with a series of statements, such as, "Overall, I feel positively towards myself right now," "I feel very much like a person of worth," "I feel inferior at this moment." ...
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Introduction Online dating is widespread among young adults, and particularly young sexual minority men. Racialized sexual discrimination (RSD), also known as “sexual racism,” is frequently reported to occur within these digital spaces and may negatively impact the psychological wellbeing of young sexual minority Black men (YSMBM). However, the association between RSD and psychological wellbeing is not well understood. Methods Using data (collected between July 2017–January 2018) from a cross-sectional web-survey of YSMBM (N = 603), six multivariable regression models were estimated to examine the association between five RSD subscales and depressive symptoms and feelings of self-worth. RSD subscales were derived from the first preliminarily validated scale of sexual racism. Results Analyses revealed that White superiority (β = .10, p < .01), same-race rejection (β = .16, p < .001), and White physical objectification (β = .14, p < .01) were all significantly associated with higher depressive symptoms, and White physical objectification (β = -.11, p < .01) was significantly associated with lower feelings of self-worth. Conclusions This study is among the first to examine the relationship between multiple, distinct manifestations of RSD and depressive symptoms and self-worth using quantitative analyses and provides evidence that RSD is negatively associated with psychological wellbeing. Policy Implications Site administrators should institute robust anti-racism policies on their platforms and hold users accountable for discriminatory behavior. Activists may also consider forming coalitions and/or developing campaigns to bring about greater awareness of RSD, in an effort to influence site administrators to enact policy change.
... Second, those who affirm personal values are better able to view the potential threats that accompany performance pressure in light of other valued aspects of the self, reducing the urge to respond defensively (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). People have several facets to their overall sense of self (e.g., roles, identities, goals, relationships, values;Sherman & Cohen, 2006). ...
... When one faces a threat to a particular facet, this part of their self dominates their working self-concept and consumes disproportionate attention (Staw et al., 1981). A personal values affirmation counteracts the impulse to respond defensively to threat because it broadens the contents of the working self-concept (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). In the case of performance pressure, broader perspective makes the aspect of the self that is under pressure feel less focal and potential failures in that domain less impactful. ...
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Pressure to perform is ubiquitous in organizations. Although performance pressure produces beneficial outcomes, it can also encourage cheating behavior. However, removing performance pressure altogether to reduce cheating is not only impractical but also eliminates pressure's benefits. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to test an intervention to counteract some of the most harmful effects of performance pressure. Specifically, I integrate the self-protection model of workplace cheating (Mitchell et al., 2018) with self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) to demonstrate the utility of a personal values affirmation intervention to short-circuit the direct and indirect effects of performance pressure on cheating through anger and self-serving cognitions. Two experiments were used to test these predictions. In a lab experiment, when people affirmed core personal values, the effect of performance pressure on cheating was neutralized; as was pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating via anger. A field experiment replicated the intervention's ability to mitigate performance pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating through anger. Altogether, this work provides a useful approach for combating the harmful effects of performance pressure and offers several theoretical and practical implications. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... Self-affirmation theory (Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Steele & Liu, 1983) suggests that bolstering the self in one important domain buffers the impact of threats in another. Self-affirmation counteracts the effects of social competition (Esses, Dovidio, Danso, Jackson, & Semenya, 2005), restores self-confidence (Briñol, Petty, Gallardo, & DeMarree, 2007) and relieves selfthreat (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Stinson, Logel, Shepherd, & Zanna, 2011). We note that physical attractiveness itself can be a source of selfaffirmation (Wan, Xu, & Ding, 2014). ...
Article
Whereas the influence of facial attractiveness (FA) on social judgments has been well documented, much less is known about the converse influence of social exchanges on FA judgments. Previous research has shown that social dimensions inherently related to the face judged, such as status, can affect such judgments. However, we found that facial attractiveness ratings were affected by social exchanges unrelated to the face judged. In three experiments, we examined how competitive and cooperative financial exchanges influence subsequent facial aesthetic judgments. Compared to cooperation, competition decreased women's (but not men's) ratings of men's facial attractiveness; this pattern of effects also occurred for ratings of buildings, suggesting that competition suppressed aesthetic appreciation. However, women'sresponses towomen's faces followed aninverse pattern, as competition (rather than cooperation) elevated womenfaces' attractiveness ratings. Introducing self-affirmation, a psychological mechanism that alleviates the effects of social competition, restored attractiveness ratings. This finding suggests that women's own-gender judgments in a competitive environment are affected by a perception of threat induced by social comparison. Overall, this study suggests that aesthetic judgments are not immune to social conditions. Such moderating effects contribute to our understanding of how sociocultural environments dynamically regulate aesthetic preferences.
... Especially, when this reality seems uncertain or ambiguous, such visualization can enliven subjective possibilities. For example, persons could imagine mythical characters as archetypes of human possibility and empowerment [68], as through self-affirmations [69]. ...
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Purpose: Rehabilitation is commonly portrayed as care that seeks to enable persons who are disabled to recover as normal a state of well-being as their personal and social circumstances allow. In contrast, this article frames psychological preconditions for persons living with disabilities to flourish toward, around or even beyond recovery through health care provision before, during or after injury. Method: This conceptual article uses reasoning and creative word play, informed by experience and literature from disciplines including psychology and philosophy. Results: Ultrabilitation promotes seven psychological preconditions of flourishing by persons with disabilities. These interconnected conditions are: apprehension; appetite; “attitude”; ambiguity; autonomy; accountability and ambiopia. Conclusions: Clinicians could partner with persons living with disabilities to promote these mental preconditions for flourishing, and use ultrabilitation to resist potentially destabilizing forces such as social imperatives to recovery and normalcy. • Implications for rehabilitation • Clinicians can support persons with disabilities to optimize mental states that enable them to flourish in everyday life. • Apprehension, including awareness of and anxiety about disability and its management, can motivate persons to assent to capabilities to flourish. • Apprehension and ambiguity can feed an appetite for personal growth and an attitude that trusts in genuine possibilities for growth through autonomy and accountability. • Autonomy frees persons to accept what they cannot change; set and implement challenging but achievable goals in creative ways; and learn to lose control without viewing disability as something that they need to get beyond in order to flourish.
... Engaging in self-affirmation (writing or thinking about a positive valued aspect of the self) or abstract thinking (thinking about a topic abstractly as opposed to concretely) helps to combat feelings of threat when in a situation that involves self-focus. 37,38 Facilitating peer group dialog in postclinical experiences could be a formative process that teaches clinicians not only to practice curiosity with each other but to also nurture positive self-affirmations. Reflective peers can help one to regulate a negative self-viewpoint by encouraging self-awareness and understanding of the conditions that gave rise to feeling threatened. ...
Article
This paper discusses the positive and negative outcomes associated with perspective‐taking and presents potential methods for mitigating negative outcomes
... This conceptualization allows for a cross-sectional assessment of the normalization process described above. We generated items for the SNI based on a multipronged strategy, including in-depth analysis of archival qualitative interview responses from participants of the Memory and Aging Program (Vandermorris et al., 2017), a review of other qualitative studies that revealed themes of emotional normalization (Hallas et al., 2009;Von Mensenkampff et al., 2015), and item review from questionnaires that tap into related constructs such as self-affirmation (Critcher, Clayton, & Dunning, 2015), coping (Larsson, 1989), loneliness (Schmidt & Sermat, 1983), hope (Snyder et al., 1991), anxiety (Beck, Steer, & Carbin, 1988), and depression (Thompson & Zuroff, 2004). ...
Article
Objectives: Individuals facing a personal challenge, such as age-related memory changes, may feel that their experiences are abnormal or pathological. Previous qualitative research on a group intervention that focuses on memory changes in older adulthood revealed that one of the greatest benefits derived by participants was the realization that their experience with memory changes was normal. In order to quantify this experience, we developed and validated a new measure, the 26-item Subjective Normalcy Inventory (SNI). Method: Reliability and validity were assessed with a sample of 167 community-dwelling adults between the ages of 55 and 90. Questionnaire responsiveness was assessed with an additional sample of 29 older adults who completed a 5-session memory intervention program known to cultivate normalization. Results: The SNI exhibited a two-factor structure, excellent test-retest reliability, ICC = .79, excellent internal consistency, Cronbach’s α = .91, and good convergent, |rs| = .46−.58, and discriminant, rs = .02–.06, validity. The measure was also responsive to change, as participants who completed the memory intervention program reported a greater sense of normalcy relative to nonintervention controls, η²p = 0.17. Conclusion: The SNI has the potential to provide novel and useful outcome information for interventions designed to improve one’s sense of normalcy and may be applied in both clinical and research settings. The SNI can also be modified, validated, and used to assess subjective normalcy with respect to other personal challenges outside of memory and attention changes.
... According to the self-affirmation theory (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Sherman & Cohen, 2002;Steele, 1988), people are strongly motivated to protect their self-integrity. One effective strategy to defend one's self-integrity is self-affirmation, which involves reflecting on and writing about core personal values (e.g., Critcher & Dunning, 2015;McQueen & Klein, 2006). Because people are motivated to maintain integrity, a brief self-affirmation intervention can boost perceived meaning in daily life (Nelson, Fuller, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2014) and bring long-lasting positive changes when people are vulnerable (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). ...
Article
Eleven studies (N = 2,254; 2 preregistered) examined whether ostracism would trigger suicidal thoughts and whether perceived meaning in life would account for this effect. The feeling of ostracism was induced via recalling a past experience (Studies 1a, 1c, 2c, and 3b), imagining a future experience (Studies 1d, 1e, and 2b), engaging in an online real-time interaction (Studies 1b and 2d), or receiving bogus personality feedback (Study 3a). Across all 11 studies, ostracism increased suicidal thoughts. Study 1a found that ostracism increased implicit associations of "death" and "me" relative to "life" and "me" on the Implicit Association Test of Suicide (Nock et al., 2010). In Study 1b, ostracized participants showed more suicidal thoughts in imagined stressful situations than did included participants. Studies 1c, 1d, and 1e further showed that ostracism increased explicit suicidal thoughts compared with both inclusion and neutral experiences. Furthermore, we found that perceived meaning in life accounted for ostracism's effect on suicidal thoughts (Studies 2a and 2b), even after controlling for depressive affect (Study 2c). In Study 2d, a preregistered study, we directly compared the contributions of perceived meaning in life and the 4 basic needs and mood proposed in William's (2007, 2009) ostracism framework, and we found that perceived meaning in life had a distinct mediating role in the ostracism-suicidal thinking link. Finally, Studies 3a and 3b found that self-affirmation exercises reduced suicidal thoughts following ostracism. Life lacks meaning without social connection, thereby activating suicidal thoughts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
... Self-affirmation has been shown to moderate sensation of threat and reduce defensive responses (Sherman & Cohen, 2006). It has been suggested that self-affirmation achieves this by broadening the view of the self beyond the threatened domain (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). ...
Article
This research addresses the impact of incongruence between trait and state power on the link between self-control and prosocial behavior. Past research has established that self-control is a powerful resource for behavioral flexibility, enabling one to execute tough, yet personally rewarding, decisions under challenging circumstances. State-trait power-incongruence may pose a threat on individuals, encouraging self-preservation at the expense of others. In this context, self-control is predicted to be associated with self-serving motives and behavior. The present article offers a first empirical test of this possibility. Two experiments demonstrated that under power-incongruence, self-control was associated with less emphasis on prosocial values (Study 1) and behavior (Study 2). Study 3 demonstrated that self-affirmation counters this effect, supporting the notion that power-incongruence poses a threat to the integrity of the self. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
... Self-affirmation helps to make participants more secure in themselves and thus less defensive (Sherman & Cohen, 2006;Steele, 2010). 12 There is reason to believe that self-affirmation techniques work because they make one's temporary self-conception more capacious (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). Through selfaffirmation individuals are able to focus their attention on those things that are central to the self and constitutive of their self-concept. ...
Chapter
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Self- affirmation techniques can help reduce arrogant behaviour in public debates. This chapter consists of three sections. The first offers an account of what speakers owe to their audiences, and of what hearers owe to speakers. It also illustrates some of the ways in which arrogance leads to violations of conversational norms. The second argues that arrogance can be understood as an attitude toward the self which is positive but defensive. The final section offers empirical evidence why we should expect self-affirmation to reduce defensiveness and thus the manifestation of arrogance in debate.
... Engaging in self-affirmation (writing or thinking about a positive valued aspect of the self) or abstract thinking (thinking about a topic abstractly as opposed to concretely) helps to combat feelings of threat when in a situation that involves self-focus. 37,38 Facilitating peer group dialog in postclinical experiences could be a formative process that teaches clinicians not only to practice curiosity with each other but to also nurture positive self-affirmations. Reflective peers can help one to regulate a negative self-viewpoint by encouraging self-awareness and understanding of the conditions that gave rise to feeling threatened. ...
Article
Background: Engaging in perspective-taking often has positive outcomes for both healthcare providers and patients. Perspective-taking by healthcare providers has been linked to increased patient satisfaction and compliance, patients' positive perceptions of healthcare providers' interpersonal skills, and a reduction in judgmental attitudes toward individuals who engage in health-risk behaviors. The positive outcomes that are associated with perspective-taking are often highlighted in the literature. However, less discussed are the negative outcomes. Aim: This paper discusses the positive and negative outcomes associated with perspective-taking and presents potential methods for mitigating negative outcomes. Conclusion: When designing and implementing perspective-taking interventions, educators and researchers should consider potential negative intervention outcomes and strategies to attenuate these outcomes.
... Indirect self-affirmations channel a person to focus on other salient (valued) aspects of their life and highlight self-worth within the broader context of the self (Critcher & Dunning, 2015;Wakslak & Trope, 2009). When individuals begin to appreciate their self-worth as being defined by more than the implications of the situation they find themselves in, global self-integrity is restored (Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009;Sherman & Cohen, 2002). ...
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Within the winner or loser dichotomy that exemplifies competitive sport, athletic success hinges on the ability to overcome and respond constructively to failure. This article introduces self-forgiveness as an adaptive, purposeful approach to coping with competitive sport performance failure in a way that stimulates personal growth and combats loss of motivation. In contrast to defensive responses that shield self-integrity, genuine self-forgiveness is reached through a process in which athletes (a) accept personal responsibility for their role in the unsuccessful performance outcome and (b) restore self-regard by affirming the self. Although athletes expose themselves to uncomfortable emotional experiences associated with failure, self-forgiveness is proposed as a process that enables athletes to objectively evaluate unsuccessful performances, identify areas warranting improvement, and develop adaptive psychological recovery responses to failure.
... Self-affirmation has been shown to reduce stress and defensive reactions in the face of criticism (Cohen and Sherman 2014;Critcher and Dunning 2015;Epton et al. 2015;Sherman and Hartson 2011). It has also been shown to make people more willing to apologize to someone they have wronged (Schumann 2014) and less likely to respond aggressively when confronted by stigmatized individuals (Stone et al. 2011). ...
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Students evaluate male professors higher than female professors. In a study that we presented to participants as a test of a new form for student evaluations of teaching (SETs), we examined if self-affirmation (contemplating elements that positively contribute to one’s self-image) reduced the gender bias. Belgian students (n = 568), who were randomly assigned to self-affirm (through either a value-affirmation task or self-superiority priming) or not, read a vignette prompting them to imagine that they had received a good or a bad grade from a male or a female professor. They evaluated the course, the professor, and the form. Non-self-affirmed participants showed a gender bias after a bad grade, disadvantaging the female professor. Self-affirmation eradicated the gender bias by lowering evaluations for the male professor, suggesting that the gender bias involves overvaluing male rather than derogating female professors. Without self-affirmation, the positivity of the SETs was correlated with participants’ evaluation of the SET form itself. Self-affirmation inflated the correlation for the male professor and eradicated it for the female professor. Having students self-affirm before SETs may be useful when SETs are obligatory only. An even better approach is asking SETs before students learn their grades or simply abolish SETs as a factor in hiring and promotion decisions.
... For instance, Shnabel, Purdie-Vaughns, Cook, Garcia, and Cohen (2013) reported that the academic impacts of self-affirmation on potentially threatened African American and Latino students are explained by their increased sense of social belonging. A second mechanism is suggested by the work of Critcher and Dunning (2015), which indicates an "affirmation as perspective" model, in which self-affirmations "expand the contents of the working concept-thus narrowing the scope of any threat" (p. 4). ...
... Although, the restorative ability of self-affirmation intervention has been investigated for lowering stress and rumination (Critcher & Dunning, 2015) for normal adults, little is known about its protective strengths for the resilience of persons with depressive tendencies. Since it has a close connection with many allies of resilience (meaning, positive attributions, optimism, self-efficacy etc.), it may facilitate the maintenance of acquired resilience after a successful self-affirmation intervention meant for lowering depressive tendencies. ...
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Although self-affirmation promotes a variety of positive life outcomes in normal adults, empirical efforts lack about its role in the restoration and protection of resilience of adults with depressive tendencies. This study aims to understand the effects of self-affirmation intervention for restoring and preserving the resilience of Indian adults with depressive tendencies. The study used a sequential research design in which 80 participants with depressive tendencies were recruited by a purposive sampling method. They were randomly assigned equally to the experimental and control conditions. They participated in the study at pre-intervention, post-intervention and follow-up intervals. The results evinced that self-affirmation intervention helped to regain and preserve resilience. The mean resilience score of the experimental group participants was significantly higher than the control group. The main effects of conditions (experimental, control) and treatment intervals (pre, post, follow-up) were significant. Moreover, the interaction effect of conditions x treatment intervals was also significant. The significant differences in the mean resilience scores for pre-intervention, post-intervention and follow-up points of time revealed the restorative and protective capacities of self-affirmation intervention. The findings demonstrated that self-affirmation helps to restore the lowered resilience and check its further reduction even after 10 days of the termination of intervention. The facilitating impacts of self-affirmation intervention on the resilience may have remained intact after a significant gap due to enhanced meaning, self-worth, constructive values, inner attributes, positive cognitions and interpersonal relationships.
... Thus, self-affirmation refers to the process of reflecting upon cherished values or attributes. Self-affirmation has been reported to help people to face internal and external threats and to promote health outcomes (Epton et al., 2015;Sweeney & Moyer, 2015), resilience , self-worth (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), self-control (Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009), self-efficacy (Epton & Harris, 2008), intrinsic aspirations (Schimel et al., 2004), pro-sociality (Burd & Burrow, 2017) and behavioural engagement (Epton et al., 2015;Sweeney & Moyer, 2015) on one hand and to reduce stress (Cook et al., 2012) and defensiveness (Schmeichel & Martens, 2005) on the other. ...
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background Although self-affirmation has been reported to enhance well-being and other positive life outcomes in normal adults, little is known about its capacity to restore and preserve well-being in adults with depressive tendencies. The current study attempts to expound the restoring and preserving capacity of self-affirmation for well-being in In-dian adults with non-clinical depressive tendencies. participants and procedure The study used a sequential research design. Eighty participants (22-27 years) with depressive tendencies were chosen through purposive sampling and were randomly assigned equally to the experimental and control conditions. Their depressive tendencies and well-being were measured through standard scales at three intervals: pre-intervention, post-intervention and follow-up. results The results revealed significant restoring and preserving capacity of self-affirmation for the well-being of the experimental group participants as compared to the control group. The main effects of conditions (experimental, control) and treatment intervals (pre, post, follow-up) were significant along with the interaction effects of conditions × treatment intervals. The significant differences in the mean well-being scores for pre-intervention, post-intervention and follow-up points of time showed the restoring and preserving capacity of self-affirmation intervention. conclusions The findings showed that self-affirmation helps to restore well-being as well as preserve it after a significant gap, which is evident in higher well-being mean scores of the experimental group taken at post-intervention and follow-up intervals. The positive effects of self-affirmation on well-being may have remained active even after the cessation of the intervention due to the underlying mechanisms of enhanced self-worth, positive values, inner strengths, positive attributions and interpersonal relationships. Key words non-clinical depressive tendencies; Indian adults; self-affirmation intervention; sequential research design; well-being.
... There are several mechanisms explaining the intervention's effectiveness in improving Black students' identities. The intervention expands Black students' self-concepts by prompting them to focus on valued aspects of their identities beyond the stereotyped domain (Critcher & Dunning, 2015), which in turn reduces attention to and saliency of the troublemaker identity. With less attention diverted to the harm imposed by the troublemaker identity, Black students' sense of school belonging increases, which tempers feelings of marginalization (Shnabel 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.
... Although our protocol differs in scope from the standard self-affirmation procedure-the latter is based on abstract personal values, whereas responsiveness refers to specific relationships and interactions-the underlying mechanisms appear to include common elements. Critcher and Dunning (2015) found that self-affirmations alleviate distress and defensiveness by broadening people's perspectives so that their self-assessments are less firmly tethered to momentary experiences of threat. We repeated their experiment using the same responsiveness inductions as in the prior two studies, and obtained the same result: Perceived responsiveness led participants to adopt a broader perspective, but perceived unresponsiveness fostered a more narrow focus. ...
Chapter
Extensive research has documented people’s desire for social partners who are responsive to their needs and preferences, and that when they perceive that others have been responsive, they and their relationships typically thrive. For these reasons, perceived partner responsiveness is well-positioned as a core organizing theme for the study of sociability in general, and close relationships in particular. Research has less often addressed the downstream consequences of perceived partner responsiveness for cognitive and affective processes. This gap in research is important, because relationships provide a central focus and theme for many, if not most, of the behaviors studied by social psychologists. This chapter begins with an overview of the construct of perceived partner responsiveness and its centrality for relationships. We then review programs of research demonstrating how perceived partner responsiveness influences three core social-psychological processes: self-enhancing social cognitions, attitude structure, and emotion regulation. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of how deeper incorporation of relationship processes can enhance the informativeness and completeness of social psychological theories.
... Self-affirmation interventions prompt the individual to consider and affirm aspects of self that enhance self-integrity. When faced with a stereotype threat, the self-affirmation intervention restores self-integrity by extending the domains of self-concept beyond the threatened domain (Critcher & Dunning, 2015). The act of self-affirmation is shown to lower levels of self-protecting behaviors, reduce defensiveness in processing self-relevant information, reduce physiological stress responses, and improve academic performance (Klein et al., 2011;Schmader & Johns, 2003). ...
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Disparity exists between racially minoritized students and their White student counterparts in academic achievement. This discrepancy engenders the difference with which students will have opportunities in advanced courses; rates of high school graduation, college acceptance, and completion rates; and salary and quality of life. The academic disparity between the two groups has been found to have roots in stereotype threat, which causes anxiety where the individual’s behavior may confirm the negative stereotypes of one’s in-group. Reducing stereotype threat has been theorized to allow minoritized students and those in negatively stereotyped groups to enhance their academic performance by removing levels of anxiety hampering their performance. Following previous work, whereby the academic achievement gap between Black and White middle school students were reduced, this study examines the effectiveness of such an intervention on 4th grade, elementary students’ reading achievement levels.
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People are frequently dissatisfied with their body weight. Messages alleging that lower weight is aesthetically preferable, healthier, and achievable likely trigger chronic self‐integrity threat, the sense that one's personal adequacy is in doubt. We examined whether self‐integrity threat, which creates stress and pressure to restore self‐integrity, contributes to the challenges of weight and behaviour change. Weight‐dissatisfied women completed in‐lab tasks including a values affirmation manipulation and two‐month follow‐up. Affirmed women lost weight relative to controls, replicating Logel and Cohen (2012). Effects were primarily among those with higher initial body masses. Affirmed higher‐weighted women also ate more healthful compared to unhealthful foods in self‐reports and observation. Affirmed participants reported increased exercise, and an exploratory measure showed that their cortisol awakening responses synchronized with their coping needs, suggesting more adaptive physiological function. Results suggest that self‐integrity threat is an underrecognized barrier to change, and reducing it can support healthy changes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Self‐affirmations—responding to self‐threatening information by reflecting on positive values or strengths—help to realign working self‐concept and may support adaptive coping and wellbeing. Little research has been undertaken on spontaneous self‐affirmations in response to everyday threats, and less has been undertaken on the relationships between spontaneous self‐affirmations, coping, and wellbeing. This study aimed to test both within‐ and between‐person relationships between spontaneous self‐affirmations, coping, and wellbeing, controlling for threat intensity and other outcomes. A repeated survey assessment design was adopted to achieve these aims. Outcome measures included approach coping, avoidance coping, positive affect, negative affect, and eudaimonic wellbeing. It was found that spontaneous self‐affirmations positively predicted approach coping and positive affect at both within‐ and between‐person levels, and eudaimonic wellbeing at the between‐person level. Overall, spontaneous self‐affirmations were positively associated with approach coping and aspects of wellbeing. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Whereas the influence of facial attractiveness (FA) on social judgments has been well documented, much less is known about the converse influence of social exchanges on FA judgments. Previous research has shown that social dimensions inherently related to the face judged, such as status, can affect such judgments. However, we found that facial attractiveness ratings were affected by social exchanges unrelated to the face judged. In three experiments, we examined how competitive and cooperative financial exchanges influence subsequent facial aesthetic judgments. Compared to cooperation, competition decreased women's (but not men's) ratings of men's facial attractiveness; this pattern of effects also occurred for ratings of buildings, suggesting that competition suppressed aesthetic appreciation. However, women's responses to women's faces followed an inverse pattern, as competition (rather than cooperation) elevated women faces' attractiveness ratings. Introducing self-affirmation, a psychological mechanism that alleviates the effects of social competition, restored attractiveness ratings. This finding suggests that women's own-gender judgments in a competitive environment are affected by a perception of threat induced by social comparison. Overall, this study suggests that aesthetic judgments are not immune to social conditions. Such moderating effects contribute to our understanding of how sociocultural environments dynamically regulate aesthetic preferences.
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A host of studies have shown that self‐relevant health messages may result in increased defensiveness and rejection of protective recommendations. Drawing on research showing that multiple identities offer psychological resources to deal with identity threats, we sought to examine whether the salience of an alternative identity before people are exposed to a personally relevant health message may buffer the threat and reduce defensive responses. Two studies were conducted on samples of daily smokers asked to read an antismoking message before completing a range of measures of defensiveness. Half of the participants had an alternative identity made salient beforehand (vs. no salience condition). Consistent with our hypotheses, Study 1 (N = 90) showed that this manipulation significantly reduced defensiveness to the message. Study 2 (N = 95) additionally showed that such effects only occurred when the alternative identity overlapped highly with the threatened identity. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
Article
Objective Self‐affirmation of personal values can reduce defensive responses to threatening health promotion messages, probably because it induces a positive and expansive view of the self. However, coping with threat is also an interpersonal process. We developed other‐affirmation inductions that focus on values held by others. Two studies examined the effects of common affirmation inductions modified for other‐affirmation: affirmation of a specific value (kindness) and affirmation of a personally chosen value. Design Randomized and controlled three‐group (self‐, other‐, or no‐affirmation conditions) single‐factor design. Outcomes were time spent in self‐directed viewing the message and self‐reported outcomes that included intentions to reduce drinking, evaluations of the message, and risk perceptions. Methods Students were randomized to self‐, other, or no‐affirmation conditions and asked to read a threatening anti‐alcohol message. Results Self‐ and other‐affirmation increased message viewing time in Study 1. In both studies, other‐affirmation increased self‐reported outcomes, and study 1 showed this effect to be more prominent in females. In Study 1, the effects of self‐ and other‐affirmation on message exposure were greater in participants with defensive coping styles, and other‐affirmation effects were mediated by more positive views of others and their values. This mediation was independent of self‐affirmation. Conclusion Other‐affirmation increased self‐reported outcomes and, in Study 1, reduced defensiveness to and improved viewing times to an anti‐alcohol message. Other‐affirmation could be useful, because it may be suited to particular subpopulations, such as females, and can be easily incorporated into mass‐reach health communications. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? • Self‐affirmation of personally important values can reduce defensive responding to threatening health communications. • Self‐affirmation effects have been shown to be mediated by feelings of connectedness. What does this study add? • Affirmation of personally important values in others can improve effects of a health communication. • Other‐affirmation effects may be greater in those with defensive coping styles. • Other‐affirmation was mediated by enhanced perceptions of others and their values.
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Self-protection and self-enhancement, once depicted as biases that impede accurate self-knowledge and hinder effective environmental control, have more recently been viewed as misbeliefs that can have fortuitous, adaptive consequences. I take the next step forward by construing identity protection and enhancement mechanisms as part of a routine, adaptive system. Whereas biological homeostasis regulates physiological processes, psychological homeostasis regulates the emotional states that threaten a desired identity. Ι elaborate on the nature of psychological homeostasis, the identity system that it modulates, and the immune system that safeguards it from harm. Ι discuss the construction of self-views and narratives in the ordinary stream of mental activity, as well as reparative responses to contemporaneous threats, similar to the immune system’s response to microbes that breach the body’s initial defenses. Using basic immunological principles, Ι distinguish between innate and adaptive psychological immunity, compare the spread of disease to that of threatening information among related self-views and narratives, and consider the “memories” of the biological and psychological immune systems to redress future threats. In addition, Ι offer a set of propositions that include predictions about various aspects of immunity, and end by considering the roles of awareness and self-deception in the immunity process.
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Research on self-affirmation has potential to inform the field’s understanding of health message resistance and acceptance. However, widely used self-affirmation instruments have several disadvantages that can lead to inconsistent success in generating self-affirmation and thus may explain inconsistent self-affirmation effects, or at the very least make their use cumbersome. In a series of three sequential studies, we introduced and tested a brief attribute scale format self-affirmation induction (brief scale affirmation task, or B-SAT) that was based on the 32-item attribute scale self-affirmation induction developed by Napper, Harris, and Epton. Using different behavioral contexts, we compared the performance of the B-SAT with that of two widely used self-affirmation inductions, i.e., the value essay task and the 32-item attribute scale. From a convergent validity perspective, the B-SAT performed as effectively as the two existing inductions in making people aware of their cherished and desirable values. From a predictive validity perspective, the B-SAT reduced defensive responses to a self-relevant health message and improved instrumental attitude toward the recommended behavior.
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A R T I C L E I N F O Keywords: Brand betrayal Brand disappointment Word-of-mouth Brand recovery Exclusive offering Service failure A B S T R A C T Brand managers inevitably have to face service failures and respond to them. Undertaking brand recovery is essential as customers might desire to take revenge or spread negative word-of-mouth if they feel betrayed or disappointed by the brand following the service failure. Thus, it is necessary to understand customer responses to brand recovery, which depend on whether they feel betrayed or disappointed (while related, this paper distinguishes these feelings). This research challenges the conventional wisdom by demonstrating that, after presenting customers with an exclusive brand offering during the brand recovery, brand betrayal predicts a positive brand attitude and brand disappointment predicts a negative brand attitude with the service failure. Further, the brand attitude mediates the positive relationship between brand betrayal, positive word-of-mouth, and the likelihood of recommending the brand to others. Thus, the quick recovery that follows an exclusive brand offering positively impacts on the brand relationship among betrayed customers.
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A three-year field experiment at an ethnically diverse middle school (N = 163) tested the hypothesis that periodic self-affirmation exercises delivered by classroom teachers bolsters students' school trust and improves their behavioral conduct. Students were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation condition, where they wrote a series of in-class essays about personally important values, or a control condition, where they wrote essays about personally unimportant values. There were no behavioral effects of affirmation at the end of 6th grade, after students had completed four writing exercises. However, after four additional exercises in 7th grade, affirmed students had a significantly lower rate of discipline incidents than students in the control condition. The effect continued to grow and did not differ across ethnic groups, such that during 8th grade students in the affirmation condition on average received discipline at a 69% lower rate than students in the control condition. Analyses of student climate surveys revealed that affirmation was associated with higher school trust over time, a tendency that held across ethnic groups and partially mediated the affirmation effect on discipline. Repeated self-affirmation can bolster students' school trust and reduce the incidence of discipline in middle school, findings with both theoretical and practical implications.
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At all levels of education, the racial achievement gap in performance between Black and Latino students and their White peers stubbornly persists. While the causes of this gap are numerous and interrelated, one theory posits that students from underrepresented racial groups may face stereotype threat, meaning that fear of failing and thereby fulfilling negative group stereotypes leads to anxiety and suboptimal cognitive performance. Though low-cost value affirmation interventions have been shown to reduce achievement gaps in some classroom settings, these findings have not been consistently replicated. In this study, we test the efficacy of this intervention among a new sample of students enrolled in a community college in the Midwest. At the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, students in English courses (N = 1,115 in 59 course sections) were randomly assigned to short writing exercises that were either self-affirming or neutral. Using administrative data collected at the end of the term, we compared treatment and control students on a range of outcomes that included course grade, overall GPA, and course persistence. Overall, we find little evidence of a positive effect of this one-time affirmation of social identity. Moderation analyses, however, show heterogeneous effects across course sections, suggesting that the classroom setting may play a role in the interaction between social identity and student outcomes.
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Adolescence can be a tumultuous period with numerous threats to self‐integrity. A 3‐year field experiment tested whether repeated affirmations of self‐integrity can help lessen the impact of psychological threat on adolescent (11–14 years old) students’ core course GPA over time. A diverse cohort of students (N = 163) was randomly assigned to a control condition or to an affirmation condition, in which teachers repeatedly administered classroom writing exercises that affirmed students’ personal values. Results showed that affirmation lessened a downward trajectory of GPA over time. In contrast to previous research, this effect occurred among all ethnic groups rather than only among stereotype‐threatened ethnic minority groups. Affirmation did not reduce self‐reported psychological threat, but it severed its relationship with performance: Among control students, psychological threat predicted lower GPA. Among affirmed students, psychological threat was unrelated to performance. Beyond their practical implications, these results make two theoretical contributions. First, affirmation can have broader benefits than those previously documented among negatively stereotyped groups, if timed to co‐occur with different sources of threat that emerge over a long developmental window. Second, the effect of affirmation may not be so much to reduce threat as to disrupt its adverse cognitive and motivational effects.
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The present study offers a proof‐of‐concept for the delivery of values affirmation via text message. In two studies, we tested whether we could distill the typical 15‐minute pen‐and‐paper values affirmation exercise into a brief (∼4 minute) text‐message based exercise. In Study 1 (N = 42), we asked students to identify an upcoming academic stressor. In Study 2, we targeted students (N = 121) who reported that they would be starting a summer internship they expected to be stressful. In both studies, students completed a brief exercise (affirmation or control) via text message the night before their stressor. Across the studies, we found consistent benefits of this mobile affirmation on students’ belonging, inconsistent effects on their perceptions of stress, and no effects on their evaluations of their stressor when measured shortly after (Study 1) or during (Study 2) the stressor. Together, these studies offer initial evidence for a novel, promising, and scalable method of delivering values affirmation at the “right time and place” using mobile technology. We also discuss lessons we learned and offer recommendations to researchers interested in administering affirmation via text message.
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Although individuals have different kinds of defensive strategies towards identity threat, the relationship between identity threat and unethical behavior is still unclear. In the current study, according to identity threat and self-affirmation theory, we propose and test the role of publicness of identity threat in determining whether identity threat will lead to unethical behavior. One online experiment with 197 participants (mixed design) and one laboratory experiment with 86 participants (between-subject design) are used to test our hypotheses. Our findings reveal that when individuals' identity threat is from the public sphere, it will increase their unethical behavior, but when such a threat is from the private sphere, it will reduce their unethical behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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Future work self salience (FWSS) refers to individuals having a clear and accessible image of possible self-concerning future work that encapsulates their hopes and aspirations. FWSS guides employees' work and careers and leads to many favorable work consequences, such as work engagement, organizational socialization, and job performance. However, little is known about its antecedents. This research explores how leaders can be leveraged to shape follower FWSS and suggests that follower FWSS is cultivated by future-oriented leaders who communicate visions. Moreover, leader self-integrity is identified as an important boundary condition. The results of a multi-wave, multi-source survey involving leader-follower dyads indicate that leader future orientation facilitates leader vision communication, which in turn, enhances follower FWSS. In addition, this indirect effect is contingent upon a first-stage moderator, leader self-integrity, such that the indirect effect is more salient when leaders have higher self-integrity. Implications for theory, practice, and future research are addressed.
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Three factors were identified that uniquely contribute to people's global self-esteem: (a) people's tendencies to experience positive and negative affective states, (b) people's specific self-views (i.e., their conceptions of their strengths and weaknesses), and (c) the way people frame their self-views. Framing factors included the relative certainty and importance of people's positive versus negative self-views and the discrepancy between people's actual and ideal self-views. The contribution of importance to people's self-esteem, however, was qualified in 2 ways. First, importance contributed only to the self-esteem of those who perceived that they had relatively few talents. Second, individuals who saw their positive self-views as important were especially likely to be high in self-esteem when they were also highly certain of these positive self-views. The theoretical and therapeutic implications of these findings are discussed.
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According to Steele (1997), negative stereotypes about intellectual abilities can act as a threat that disrupts the performance of students targeted by bad reputations. Previous research on stereotype threat has showed that on a stereotype-relevant test, stigmatized group members (e.g., African Americans) performed worse than others on an intellectual verbal task. However, when the instructions accompanying the test did not create stereotype threat, stigmatized group members' performance was equal to that of other participants. In this paper, we present studies documenting the effect of stereotype threat and discuss ways to counter it. Two strategies derived from Self-Categorization Theory (Turner & Oakes, 1989) and Self-Affirmation Theory (Steele, 1988) are presented, tested, and discussed.
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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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People construct idiosyncratic, self-serving models of excellence or success in social domains, in part, to bolster self-esteem. In 3 studies, participants tended to articulate self-serving theories of success under experimental conditions in which pressures to maintain self-esteem were present, but not under conditions in which such pressures were absent. Participants assigned to role-play being a therapist were more self-serving in their assessments of the characteristics needed to be a "successful therapist" than were participants assigned to observe the role play (Study 1). Participants failing at an intellectual task articulated self-serving theories about the attributes crucial to success in marriage (Study 2) and evaluated targets similar to themselves more favorably than they did dissimilar targets (Study 3), tendencies not observed for participants succeeding at the task. Discussion centers on issues for future research suggested by these findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Research on self-esteem has focused almost exclusively on level of trait self-esteem to the neglect of other potentially more important aspects such as the contingencies on which self-esteem is based. Over a century ago, W. James (1890) argued that self-esteem rises and falls around its typical level in response to successes and failures in domains on which one has staked self-worth. We present a model of global self-esteem that builds on James' insights and emphasizes contingencies of self-worth. This model can help to (a) point the way to understanding how self-esteem is implicated in affect, cognition, and self-regulation of behavior, (b) suggest how and when self-esteem is implicated in social problems; (c) resolve debates about the nature and functioning of self-esteem; (d) resolve paradoxes in related literatures, such as why people who are stigmatized do not necessarily have low self-esteem and why self-esteem does not decline with age; and (e) suggest how self-esteem is causally related to depression. In addition, this perspective raises questions about how contingencies of self-worth are acquired and how they change, whether they are primarily a resource or a vulnerability, and whether some people have noncontingent self-esteem. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)
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There are currently a large number of models which identify self-evaluation (self-esteem) as an important source of motivation. However, these models often posit qualitatively different antecedents and consequences. The present studies focus on the questions of whether these qualitatively different behavioral systems affect the same or different mediating variables, and whether the motivation is to maximize or simply maintain a particular level of self-evaluation. In Study 1 we found that providing subjects a “self affirmation” (Steele, 1988) opportunity reduced their propensity to engage in self-evaluation maintenance behaviors (SEM; Tesser, 1988). In Studies 2 and 3 we found that making salient positive SEM scenarios reduced the propensity to engage in dissonance reduction whereas making salient a threatening SEM scenario did not. These results were interpreted as indicating that these hypothetical self-systems affect the same mediating variable and that the motive is to maintain rather than maximize self-evaluation.
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Drawing on the motivated cognition literature, we examine how self-affirmation processes influence self-justification needs and escalation decisions. Study 1 found that individuals with a larger pool of affirmational resources (high self-esteem) reduced their escalation compared to those with fewer affirmational resources (low self-esteem). Study 2 extended these findings by demonstrating that individuals also de-escalated their commitments when they were provided an opportunity to affirm on an important value. Finally, Study 3 found that affirming on traits that were of low relevance (e.g., creativity) to an initial decision reduced escalation, but affirming on decision-relevant traits (e.g., decision-making ability) ironically increased escalation. Across three studies, using three instantiations of self-affirmations and two measures of escalation, the results highlight the potential benefits and costs of using self-affirmation as a vehicle to de-escalate commitment.
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Although screening for medical problems can have health benefits, the potentially threatening nature of the results can lead people to avoid screening. In three studies, we examined whether affirming people's self-worth reduces their avoidance of medical-screening feedback. Participants completed an online risk calculator for a fictitious medical condition and then were offered a choice to receive or not receive their risk feedback. Our results showed that affirmation decreased participants' avoidance of risk feedback (Study 1) and eliminated the increased avoidance typically observed when risk feedback might obligate people to engage in undesired behavior (Study 2) and when feedback is about risk for an untreatable disease (Study 3). These findings suggest that affirmation may be an effective strategy for increasing rates of medical screening.
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Research on self-affirmation has shown that simple reminders of self-integrity reduce people's tendency to respond defensively to threat. Recent research has suggested it is irrelevant whether the self-affirmation exercise takes place before or after the threat or the individual's defensive response to it, supposedly because the meaning of threats is continuously reprocessed. However, four experiments revealed that affirmations may be effective only when introduced prior to the initiation of a defensive response. Affirmations introduced before threatening feedback reduced defensive responding; affirming after a threat was effective in reducing defensiveness only if the defensive conclusion had yet to be reached. Even though threats may activate a defensive motivation, the authors' results suggest that defensive responses may not be spontaneous and may be prompted only when suggested by the dependent measures themselves. This explains why some affirmations positioned after threats are effective in reducing defensiveness. Implications for self-affirmation theory are discussed.
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Three studies test whether group members strategically shift the standard of judgment they use to decide whether a particular ingroup action was unjust. In Study 1, individuals who were highly identified with their ingroup set higher confirmatory injustice standards than low identifiers-they needed more evidence to conclude that their group acted unjustly. This led to reductions in judgments of harm and diminished collective guilt. In Study 2, group identification was experimentally manipulated and the results of Study 1 were replicated. In Study 3, stronger support is provided for the motivational nature of this process. Specifically, the motivation to shift the standard upward was decreased by providing group members with an opportunity to self-affirm at the group level. Participants who self-affirmed set lower confirmatory standards of injustice, rated the harm as more severe, and experienced greater collective guilt than, those not self-affirming. Implications of this quantitative standard shifting are discussed.
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In numerous self-affirmation studies, Claude Steele and colleagues have demonstrated that self-affirmations reduce the need to justify dissonant behavior even when the affirmation is unrelated to the dissonance-evoking action. However, research has not sufficiently examined the impact of reaffirming self-aspects that are related to the dissonance. The authors argue that relevant affirmations of this sort can make salient the standards that are violated in the course of dissonant behavior; thereby increasing dissonance and the need for self justification. In a laboratory study using the induced-compliance paradigm, it was demonstrated that dissonance can be exacerbated by reaffirming standards that are violated in the course of the dissonant behavior. Peer Reviewed http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/68836/2/10.1177_0146167297237002.pdf
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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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Previous research has repeatedly shown that writing about an important value, compared with writing about an unimportant value, reduces defensiveness in response to self-threatening information, but has not identified why. Study 1 showed that participants who wrote about an important value reported more positive other-directed feelings, such as love and connection, than participants who wrote about an unimportant value. Study 2 replicated this effect, and showed that loving and connected feelings, but not positive or negative self-directed feelings, completely accounted for the effect of a values-affirmation manipulation on smokers' acceptance of information indicating that smoking harms health. These studies, in concert with previous research, suggest that values affirmation reduces defensiveness via self-transcendence, rather than self-integrity (i.e., self-worth or self-images).
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Three factors were identified that uniquely contribute to people's global self-esteem: (a) people's tendencies to experience positive and negative affective states, (b) people's specific self-views (i.e., their conceptions of their strengths and weaknesses), and (c) the way people frame their self-views. Framing factors included the relative certainty and importance of people's positive versus negative self-views and the discrepancy between people's actual and ideal self-views. The contribution of importance to people's self-esteem, however, was qualified in 2 ways. First, importance contributed only to the self-esteem of those who perceived that they had relatively few talents. Second, individuals who saw their positive self-views as important were especially likely to be high in self-esteem when they were also highly certain of these positive self-views. The theoretical and therapeutic implications of these findings are discussed.
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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.
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The present experiment measured the speed with which people escaped from a highly self-focusing situation after an initial failure or success. Consistent with predictions, the fastest escapes were found among people who were low in self-complexity and who experienced initial failure. These results support the notion that high self-complexity serves as a buffer against the threatening implications of failure, presumably because many aspects of the self-concept remain untouched by the failure. Additional findings showed that failure impaired the subsequent performance (in writing an essay about the self of people with low self-complexity, but it actually improved the performance of people with high self-complexity. These results suggest that an identical failure may have different levels of global aversiveness and may elicit different coping styles as a function of self-complexity.
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This research develops and tests a model relating complexity of self-representation to affective and evaluative responses. The basic hypothesis is that the less complex a person's cognitive representation of the self, the more extreme will be the person's swings in affect and self-appraisal. Experiment 1 showed that those lower in self-complexity experienced greater swings in affect and self-appraisal following a failure or success experience. Experiment 2 showed that those lower in self-complexity experienced greater variability in affect over a 2-week period. The results are discussed, first, in terms of self-complexity as a buffer against the negative effects of stressful life events, particularly depression; and, second, in terms of the thought patterns of depressed persons. The results reported here suggest that level of self-complexity may provide a promising cognitive marker for vulnerability to depression.
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Results of 2 experiments with a total of 221 housewives support the prediction that name-calling, by conveying a negative judgment, would enhance Ss' willingness to comply and their actual compliance with a later request for help. Negative names produced more compliance behavior than positive names. Also, whether or not the negative name was related to the help request made no difference in the percentage of Ss who agreed to comply. Exp II also demonstrated that it was the name's impugnment of the S's general character and not its impugnment of a specific behavior that was needed to increase later compliance. Implications for experiments using negative judgments as independent variable manipulations and for the relationship between self-esteem and consistency processes are discussed. (16 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Drawing from self-affirmation theory (C. M. Steele, 1988) and L. L. Martin and A. Tesser's (1989, 1996) theory of ruminative thinking, the authors hypothesized that people stop ruminating about a frustrated goal when they can affirm an important aspect of the self. In 3 experiments participants were given failure feedback on an alleged IQ test. Failure feedback led to increased rumination (i.e., accessibility of goal-related thoughts) compared with no-failure conditions (Studies 1 and 2). Rumination was reduced when participants could self-affirm after failure (Studies 1 and 2) or before failure (Study 3). In Study 3, self-affirmation led to increased positive affect on a disguised mood test and more positive name letter evaluations. Moreover, the obtained increase in positive affect mediated the effect of self-affumation on rumination. It is concluded that self-affirmation may be an effective way to stop ruminative thinking. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The authors argue that self-image maintenance processes play an important role in stereotyping and prejudice. Three studies demonstrated that when individuals evaluated a member of a stereotyped group, they were less likely to evaluate that person negatively if their self-images had been bolstered through a self-affirmation procedure, and they were more likely to evaluate that person stereotypically if their self-images had been threatened by negative feedback. Moreover, among those individuals whose self-image had been threatened, derogating a stereotyped target mediated an increase in their self-esteem. The authors suggest that stereotyping and prejudice may be a common means to maintain one's self-image, and they discuss the role of self-image-maintenance processes in the context of motivational, sociocultural, and cognitive approaches to stereotyping and prejudice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Trivialization as a mode of dissonance reduction and the conditions under which it is likely to occur were explored in 4 studies. Study 1 tested and supported the hypothesis that when the preexisting attitude is made salient, participants will trivialize the dissonant cognitions rather than change their attitudes. Study 2 tested and supported the hypothesis that following a counterattitudinal behavior, participants will choose the first mode of dissonance reduction provided for them, whether it is trivialization or attitude change. Study 3 tested and supported the hypothesis that following a counterattitudinal behavior, the typical self-affirmation treatment leads to trivialization. Study 4 demonstrated that providing a trivializing frame by making an important issue salient also encourages trivialization rather than attitude change even when there was no opportunity for self-affirmation. The implications for cognitive dissonance theory and research are briefly discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Two experiments tested the prediction that stigmatized individuals can avoid backlash when they confront others about bias if they first ask questions designed to activate self-affirmation processes. Experiment 1 showed that compared to a no-strategy control condition, highly prejudiced perceivers tended to express less desire to meet an Arab-American when he asked them to take his perspective on prejudice, but they expressed more desire to meet him when he asked self-affirming questions prior to making the perspective-taking request. Experiment 2 replicated this effect with a different affirmation and revealed that asking self-affirming questions reduced perceptions that the target was being confrontational when asking others to take his perspective. Together, these studies show that stigmatized targets can effectively challenge prejudiced individuals to reduce their biases if they first use a subtle strategy that reduces defensiveness.
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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Previous research has shown that low self-esteem individuals are more likely than their high self-esteem counterparts to have adverse affective, cognitive, and behavioral reactions to failure or negative feedback. The present field study tested the hypothesis that self-esteem differences in response to negative feedback are mediated by the greater tendency of low than high self-esteem persons to overgeneralize the implications of negative feedback to other aspects of their identities. The results supported the hypothesis. Theoretical and practical implications of the results and limitations of the study are discussed.
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The existence of cognitive biases in anxiety is now well established, and we summarize evidence demonstrating attentional vigilance to cues associated with threat, pessimistic interpretation of ambiguous items and an increased perception of the likelihood of occurrence of negative events. We explore how these reactions can be understood within an evolutionary context, and present a descriptive model consistent with the experimental findings, conducive to modification of responses through learning. A computational implementation of aspects of the model successfully simulates changes in reaction time for a simple task as anxiety levels increase. Future directions include pursuing the causal nature of biases in anxiety and examining the potential for change through training techniques.
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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.