The strength to face the facts: Self-regulation defends against defensive information processing

Rachel L. Ruttan*, Loran F. Nordgren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Five studies examined the impact of self-regulatory capacities on defensive information processing—the tendency to deny, distort, or avoid diagnostic self-threatening information. Across domains, we found that people low in trait (Studies 1 and 5) and state (Studies 2, 3, and 4) self-regulatory capacities were more likely to deny the validity and importance of negative feedback, and were less willing to seek improvement based on this information. Alternative explanations based on self-esteem and competence-based deficits were ruled out. Moreover, we demonstrated a boundary condition of this effect: For participants high in self-improvement motivation, reduced self-regulatory capacities did not affect defensive processing (Studies 4 and 5). Taken together, these results suggest that trait and state levels of self-regulatory capacities are a key factor in determining whether people engage in defensive information processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Defensive processing
  • Feedback
  • Self-improvement motivation
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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