Interest in and reactions to genetic risk information: the role of implicit theories and self-affirmation

Taber, Jennifer M, Klein, William M P, Persky, Susan, Ferrer, Rebecca, Kaufman, Annette R, Thai, Chan L and Harris, Peter R (2017) Interest in and reactions to genetic risk information: the role of implicit theories and self-affirmation. Social Science and Medicine, 190. pp. 101-110. ISSN 0277-9536

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Rationale: Implicit theories reflect core assumptions about whether human attributes are malleable or fixed: incremental theorists believe a characteristic is malleable whereas entity theorists believe it is fixed. People with entity theories about health may be less likely to engage in risk-mitigating behavior. Spontaneous self-affirmation (e.g., reflecting on one’s values when threatened) may lessen defensiveness and unhealthy behaviors associated with fixed beliefs, and reduce the likelihood of responding to health risk information with fixed beliefs. Method: Across two studies conducted in the US from 2012-2015, we investigated how self-affirmation and implicit theories about health and body weight were linked to engagement with genetic risk information. In Study 1, participants in a genome sequencing trial (n=511) completed cross-sectional assessments of implicit theories, self-affirmation, and intentions to learn, share, and use genetic information. In Study 2, overweight women (n=197) were randomized to receive genetic or behavioral explanations for weight; participants completed surveys assessing implicit theories, self-affirmation, self-efficacy, motivation, and intentions. Results: Fixed beliefs about weight were infrequently endorsed across studies (10.8-15.2%). In Study 1, participants with stronger fixed theories were less interested in learning and using genetic risk information about medically actionable disease; these associations were weaker among participants higher in self-affirmation. In Study 2, among participants given behavioral explanations for weight, stronger fixed theories about weight were associated with lower motivation and intentions to eat a healthy diet. Among participants given genetic explanations, being higher in self-affirmation was associated with less fixed beliefs. Conclusion: Stronger health-related fixed theories may decrease the likelihood of benefiting from genetic information, but less so for people who self-affirm.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: implicit theories; self-affirmation; risk; genetic testing; body weight; mindsets; lay theories; United States
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellena Adams
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2017 13:39
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2020 01:00

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