The moderating impact of self-esteem on self-affirmation effects

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This study explored whether self-esteem would moderate the effectiveness of a self-affirmation manipulation at increasing openness to personally relevant health-risk information.


The study employed a prospective experimental design.


Participants (N = 328) completed either a self-affirmation manipulation or a control task, prior to reading information detailing the health-related consequences of taking insufficient exercise. They then completed a series of measures assessing their cognitions towards exercise and their derogation of the information. Exercise behaviour was assessed at 1-week follow-up.


Self-esteem moderated the impact of self-affirmation on the majority of outcomes. For participants with low self-esteem, the self-affirmation manipulation resulted in more positive attitudes and intentions towards exercise, together with lower levels of derogation of the health-risk information. By contrast, there was no effect of the self-affirmation manipulation on outcomes for participants with high self-esteem.


Findings suggest that self-affirmation manipulations might be of particular benefit for those with low self-esteem in terms of promoting openness towards health-risk information. This is promising from a health promotion perspective, as individuals with low self-esteem often represent those most in need of intervention.

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