Morality or competence? The importance of affirming the appropriate dimension of self-integrity

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Jessop, Donna ; Sparks, Paul ; Jessop, Laura ; Dodds, Lauren ; Lynch, Sarah (2016)
  • Publisher: British Psychological Society
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12209
  • Subject: B
    mesheuropmc: humanities | education

Objectives: Two studies explored the relative efficacy of a morality-based versus a competence-based self-affirmation manipulation at increasing acceptance of personally relevant health-risk information. In accordance with prior theorising (e.g., Cohen & Sherman, 2014), it was hypothesized that the morality affirmation would be more effective than the competence affirmation in such contexts, as the former targets a different domain to that threatened by the health-risk information.\ud \ud Design: Both studies employed a cross-sectional experimental design. \ud \ud Methods: Participants were presented with a morality affirmation, competence affirmation or no affirmation control prior to reading a message about the risks of (a) not engaging in daily dental flossing (Study 1) and (b) red meat consumption (Study 2). Participants subsequently completed a number of measures assessing acceptance of the message. \ud \ud Results: In line with predictions, findings from both studies demonstrated that the morality affirmation precipitated greater acceptance of personally relevant health-risk information compared to the competence affirmation, as reflected in more positive attitudes (Studies 1 and 2) and intentions (Study 1). Study 2’s findings further suggested that the superior efficacy of the morality affirmation in health-related contexts could not simply be attributed to a general tendency for this affirmation to outperform the competence affirmation. \ud \ud Conclusions: The nature of the value affirmed may be a critical factor in determining the success of self-affirmation manipulations in health-related domains.
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