Self-affirmation moderates effects of unrealistic optimism and pessimism on reactions to tailored risk feedback.
We examined whether self-affirmation would facilitate intentions to engage in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among individuals who were off-schedule for CRC screening and who were categorised as unrealistically optimistic, realistic or unrealistically pessimistic about their CRC risk. All participants received tailored risk feedback; in addition, one group received threatening social comparison information regarding their risk factors, a second received this information after a self-affirmation exercise and a third was a no-treatment control. When participants were unrealistically optimistic about their CRC risk (determined by comparing their perceived comparative risk to calculations from a risk algorithm), they expressed greater interest in screening if they were self-affirmed (relative to controls). Non-affirmed unrealistic optimists expressed lower interest relative to controls, suggesting that they were responding defensively. Realistic participants and unrealistically pessimistic participants who were self-affirmed expressed relatively less interest in CRC screening, suggesting that self-affirmation can be helpful or hurtful depending on the accuracy of one's risk perceptions.
Klein, WMP; Lipkus, IM; Scholl, SM; McQueen, A; Cerully, JL; Harris, PR
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