OBJECTIVE: Self-affirmation has been shown to reduce defensive responding to threatening information. However, little is known about the cognitive and attentional processes underlying these effects. In the current eye-movement study, the authors explored whether self-affirmation affects attention allocation (i.e., number of fixations) among those for whom a threatening health message is self-relevant.
METHODS: After a self-affirmation manipulation, 47 smokers and 52 nonsmokers viewed a series of cigarette packs displaying high or low threat smoking-related images accompanied by a brief smoking message containing risk, coping or neutral textual information.
RESULTS: Self-affirmed smokers made more fixations to the cigarette packs than did nonaffirmed smokers (across both high and low threat images), whereas self-affirmed nonsmokers made fewer fixations to the cigarette packs than did nonaffirmed nonsmokers (again across both image types). The textual information did not moderate responses.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate attention-increasing effects of self-affirmation among those for whom the information is self-relevant (smokers) and attention-decreasing effects of self-affirmation among those for whom the information is not self-relevant (nonsmokers). Such findings are consistent with the calibration model of self-affirmation (Griffin & Harris, 2011) in which self-affirmation increases sensitivity to the self-relevance of health-risk information. The use of an implicit measure of visual orienting informs our understanding of the working mechanisms of self-affirmation when encoding health information, and may also hold practical implications for the design and delivery of graphic warning labels. (PsycINFO Database Record
- anti-smoking images
- CIGARETTE WARNING LABELS
- THREATENING HEALTH INFORMATION
- NEUROSCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
- RISK INFORMATION
- FEAR APPEALS