University of Sussex
Harris, Philine S..pdf (4.03 MB)

Exploring the immediate affective and cognitive consequences of self-affirmation

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:25 authored by Philine S Harris
Self-affirmation has been shown to alter individuals’ reactions to a wide range of threats, yet comparatively little is known about its cognitive and affective consequences, especially in the immediate aftermath of self-affirmation. This thesis explored these effects and the role of trait self-esteem in moderating them. In relation to cognition, in Study 1 (Chapter 2, N = 83), self-affirmation improved performance on two tasks (testing working memory and inhibition) related to executive function; Effects were not moderated by self-esteem. In Study 2 (Chapter 3, N = 107), self-affirmation decreased performance on a different working memory task among high self-esteem individuals. In relation to affect, a systematic review (Chapter 4) indicated that self-affirmation is not consistently associated with positive affect, despite the fact that positive affect has received much attention as a possible mediator of self-affirmation effects. Study 4 (Chapter 5, N = 161) showed that self-esteem moderated the effects of self-affirmation on positive affect: high self-esteem individuals reported more positive affect after self-affirming. Study 5 (Chapter 6, N = 270) revealed that self-affirmed (vs control) participants used more positive affective language. Participants in Study 6 (Chapter 6, N = 73) were randomised to a positive mood, self-affirmation or control condition, and read about the health consequences of fruit and vegetable consumption. At one-week follow-up, self-affirmed participants reported highest consumption, but positive affect did not mediate this effect. Overall, the findings show some support for an impact of self-affirmation on executive function, providing a useful link between the diverse areas which self-affirmation has been known to affect. They also support the notion that positive affect can be an immediate product of self-affirmation, especially for those high in self-esteem. However, they do not support the view that positive affect is the mechanism underlying the effect of self-affirmation on the processing of self-relevant threatening information.


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University of Sussex

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