Health risk information is increasingly being conveyed through accounts of personal experiences or narrative information. Evidence suggests such narrative accounts may be less subject to defensive resistance than more traditional, statistical information. Consequently, this study tests whether self-affirmation – a means of reducing defensive resistance that has been widely tested using statistical information – (a) can promote behavior change following exposure to narrative health information and (b) promotes message acceptance by increasing message engagement. These questions were examined in the context of the risks to young people of excessive alcohol consumption. Methods In an experimental design, female drinkers (N = 142) reported their baseline alcohol consumption and were randomly allocated to condition (Self-Affirmation, Control). All participants then watched an extract of a genuine narrative piece in which the central character discussed her liver disease and its link with her previous alcohol consumption. Subsequently, participants completed measures assessing engagement with the narrative and message acceptance. The primary outcome was alcohol consumption, assessed at 7-day follow-up. Results Self-affirmed participants reported consuming significantly less alcohol at follow-up compared to baseline; there was no change in alcohol consumption for the control group. Immediately post-manipulation, self-affirmed participants (vs. control) showed more acceptance and reported greater engagement with the information. The impact of self-affirmation on message acceptance was mediated by narrative engagement. Conclusions Self-affirmation can promote behavior change following exposure to health information, even when presented in narrative form.
Bibliographical noteThis is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Annals of Behavioral Medicine following peer review. The version of record Kerry J. Fox, Peter R. Harris, Donna C. Jessop; Experimentally Manipulated Self-Affirmation Promotes Reduced Alcohol Consumption in Response to Narrative Information, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 51, Issue 6, 1 December 2017, Pages 931–935 is available online at: https://academic.oup.com/abm/article/51/6/931/4648741, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-017-9912-2
- narrative information
- defensive processing
- health-risk information