Empirical research has found that self-affirmation that precedes exposure to threatening information can reduce resistance and exert a positive effect on attitudes and beliefs. However, the effortful methods currently used to induce self-affirmation (e.g., writing an essay about an important value) limit its applicability. Informed by narrative persuasion literature, we present an experimental study designed to assess the potential of vicarious-affirmation (i.e., affirmation through a relevant exemplar in a fictional story) to influence perceived risk and behavioral intent among college-age electronic cigarette users (N = 832). Similar to traditional self-affirmation, a story that affirmed its character (by winning an award) before introducing tobacco-related risk information, led to greater perceived risk and increased intentions to stop using electronic-cigarettes. Identification with the character led to more positive self-appraisal, which, in turn, reduced message derogation and enhanced perceived risk. We conclude by discussing the theoretical and applied implications of integrating narrative persuasion with self-affirmation theory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Library and Information Sciences