Greater benefit of self-affirmation for prevention-focused individuals prior to threatening health messages

Ferrer, Rebecca A, Cerully, Jennifer L, Harris, Peter R and Klein, William M P (2020) Greater benefit of self-affirmation for prevention-focused individuals prior to threatening health messages. Psychology and Health. pp. 1-20. ISSN 0887-0446

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Abstract

Objective
Individuals are often defensive toward health messages that suggest they are putting their health at risk because such messages threaten their self-competence and integrity. Although self-affirmation can facilitate prevention behaviors in response to health messages, effects are variable. We examined whether disease prevention focus might strengthen self-affirmation’s effects in response to disease prevention messages, given that prevention-focused individuals are likeliest to be persuaded by those messages after self-affirmation attenuates defensiveness.

Design
In Study 1, participants were self-affirmed before a message about sexually transmitted infections. In Studies 2 and 3, individuals were self-affirmed prior to a message about alcohol and cancer risk.

Main Outcome Measures
Studies assessed intentions to use condoms, intentions to reduce alcohol, and willingness to drink alcohol in specific scenarios.

Results
In Study 1, self-affirmation facilitated condom use intentions among those higher in prevention focus. In Studies 2 and 3, self-affirmation facilitated lower willingness to consume alcohol among those high in prevention focus. A meta-analysis across the three studies indicated that self-affirmation improved intentions and willingness under high, but not low, prevention focus (d = 0.20, p = .003).

Conclusion
These findings demonstrate that health prevention-focus can strengthen self-affirmation’s effects, thereby improving responsiveness to health communications about behaviors that increase disease risk.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Self-affirmation, health behavior, health messages, prevention focus
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2020 08:43
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2021 01:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/94260

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