Increasing Receptivity to Messages about E-Cigarette Risk Using Vicarious-Affirmation

Nathan Walter*, Camille J. Saucier, Sheila T. Murphy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-235
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


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