While prior research has demonstrated the benefits of self-affirming individuals prior to exposing them to potentially threatening health messages, the current study assesses the feasibility of inducing self-affirmation vicariously through the success of a character in a narrative. In Study 1, college-age participants who regularly use e-cigarettes (N = 225) were randomly assigned to read one of two versions of a story depicting a college student of their own gender. The versions were identical except in the vicarious self-affirmation (VSA) condition, the main character achieves success (i.e., honored with a prestigious award) before being confronted by a friend about the dangers associated with their e-cigarette use; whereas in the vicarious control condition, the achievement is mentioned after the risk information. Results of the posttest and 10-day follow-up demonstrated that VSA reduced messages derogation, while increasing self-appraisal and perceived risk. The effect of VSA on e-cigarette outcomes was moderated by frequency of use, with heavier users benefiting the most. Study 2 (N = 152) confirmed that traditional value affirmation works with our stimuli on a comparable population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)