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When risk communication backfires: randomized controlled trial on self-affirmation and reactance to personalized risk feedback in high-risk individuals


Schuz, N and Schuz, B and Eid, M, When risk communication backfires: randomized controlled trial on self-affirmation and reactance to personalized risk feedback in high-risk individuals, Health Psychology, 32, (5) pp. 561-570. ISSN 0278-6133 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 American Psychological Association

DOI: doi:10.1037/a0029887


Objective: Health promotion often faces the problem that populations with high behavioral risk profiles respond defensively to health promotion messages by negating risk or reactant behavior. Self-affirmation theory proposes that defensive reactions are an attempt of the self-system to maintain integrity. In this article, we examine whether a self-affirmation manipulation can mitigate defensive responses to personalized visual risk feedback in the skin cancer prevention context (ultraviolet [UV] photography), and whether the effects pertain to individuals with high behavioral risk status (high personal relevance of tanning).

Method: We conducted a full-factorial randomized controlled trial (N= 292; age 11-71) following a 2 * 2 design (UV photo yes/no, self-affirmation yes/no). Follow-up period was 2 weeks.

Main outcome measure: Subsequent tanning behavior, sun avoidance intentions, and risk perception.

Results: A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed a three-way interaction between risk feedback, the self-affirmation manipulation, and risk status for the three outcome measures. Follow-up analyses of variance (ANOVAs) indicated that high-risk individuals receiving only the risk feedback intervention reacted defensively and reported higher exposure. A self-affirmation manipulation mitigates this reactance effect both on the level of cognitions and behavior.

Discussion: Self-affirmation has influential implications not only for Social Psychology but also for health prevention measures. The findings support the effectiveness of self-affirmation in reducing reactant and defensive reactions to personalized visual risk feedback. Interactions with health risk status indicate that self-affirmation might increase the effectiveness of health promotion messages in high-risk populations.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:self-affirmation; reactance; sun protection; skin cancer;UV photography
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Clinical and health psychology
Research Field:Health psychology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Health education and promotion
UTAS Author:Schuz, N (Dr Natalie Schuez)
UTAS Author:Schuz, B (Dr Benjamin Schuez)
ID Code:80919
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:51
Deposited By:Medicine
Deposited On:2012-11-15
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:5 View Download Statistics

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