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Exploring the Relationship Among Self-Affirmation, Self-Concept Clarity and Reduced Defensiveness to Threats

Cerully, Jennifer L (2011) Exploring the Relationship Among Self-Affirmation, Self-Concept Clarity and Reduced Defensiveness to Threats. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Two studies were designed to explore the effect of self-affirmation on self-concept clarity and assess the potential mediational role of self-concept clarity in the relationship between self-affirmation and reduced defensiveness to threatening health information. It was predicted that self-affirmed participants would experience higher levels of self-concept clarity than their non-affirmed counterparts (Experiment 1). Moreover, consistent with prior research, it was hypothesized that self-affirmation would result in reduced defensiveness for people faced with a health threat relative to non-affirmed, threatened participants and to non-threatened participants (Experiments 1 and 2). Lastly, it was predicted that this relationship would be mediated by self-concept clarity (Experiments 1 and 2). In Experiment 1, 297 male and female college students wrote a self-affirming or control essay and were then exposed to a message suggesting that engaging in sexual activity increases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. In Experiment 2, 249 female college students self-affirmed in a manner that was designed to result in either low or high self-concept clarity and then read a message highlighting the link between alcohol and breast cancer risk. In both studies, defensive reactions were assessed by measuring variables such as risk perceptions, emotional responses, intentions and actual engagement in risk-reducing behavior. Experiment 1 illustrated that self-affirming did result in a small but statistically significant increase in self-concept clarity relative to those who did not self-affirm, but not reduced defensiveness. In Experiment 2, participants who self-affirmed in a manner that resulted in low or high self-concept clarity did not differ in consistent ways. Participants who consumed the most alcohol and completed the high self-concept clarity self-affirmation in the lab reported engaging in less unhealthy behavior (i.e., consuming fewer alcoholic drinks) in the seven to ten days after their participation relative to those who completed the low self-concept clarity self-affirmation, providing evidence that self-affirmation may result in behavioral change for some groups. The theoretical and practical implications of these experiments, as well as future directions for research on the mediators of the effects of self-affirmation will be discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cerully, Jennifer Ljlc57@pitt.eduJLC57
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairLevine, John Mjml@pitt.eduJML
Committee CoChairKlein, William M P
Committee MemberCreswell, J
Committee MemberCheong, JeeWonjcheong@pitt.eduJCHEONG
Date: 6 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 April 2011
Approval Date: 6 June 2011
Submission Date: 6 April 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: defensiveness; drinking behavior; self-affirmation; self-concept clarity; sexual behavior; threat
Other ID:, etd-04062011-145824
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:34
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:38


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