Self-affirmation theory proposes that people’s beliefs and behaviors are motivated by a desire to view the self as moral, adaptive, and capable. Researchers have found that allowing one to affirm leads to a decrease in defensiveness towards threatening health information including greater acceptance of the information and greater intentions to change a health behavior. However, few studies have examined why self-affirmation has these effects. In this study, college students were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmed condition in which they wrote an essay about their personal values or a non-affirmed condition in which they wrote about a non-personal value. Participants then read and responded to hypothetical coping scenarios and completed personality and other individual difference measures. We examined effects of the self-affirmation on coping responses. We also examined whether the effects of self-affirmation were moderated by self-esteem, personality, and optimism.
Faculty Mentor: Amanda Dillard, Psychology