More Than a Feeling: How Affective Forecasts and Threat Breadth Contribute to Self-Affirmation Effects

Eggleston, Casey, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wilson, Timothy, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the relationship between self-affirmation interventions and two previously-unexplored factors: affective forecasts and threat breadth. I hypothesize that, in general, affirmed individuals will make more moderate (less catastrophic) affective forecasts about self-threats compared to non-affirmed people. I also predict an interaction with threat breadth, such that affirmed participants who perceive a narrow threat will show traditional affirmation effects while affirmed participants who perceive a broad threat will demonstrate undesirable “backfiring” effects, such as providing more extreme affective forecasts, being more defensive, and underperforming compared to control participants. Study 1 begins to explore the link between affirmation and affective forecasting, while Studies 2 through 4 examine the interactive effects of affirmation and threat breadth on various outcomes including affective forecasting (all studies), reactions to threatening information (Study 3), and performance on a difficult creativity test (Study 4). In each of the reported studies, I find evidence for threat breadth as a moderator of affirmation’s effects, with broad threats producing a backfiring effect, while the relationship between affirmation and affective forecasting appears to be less straightforward.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
self-affirmation, affective forecasting, threat, breadth, moderation
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