The Effects of Self-Affirmation on Basic Emotional Responses
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Reflecting on what one values in life—a common means of self-affirmation—can change how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The purpose of the current research was to extend self-affirmation theory beyond the realm of self-esteem defenses to simpler responses to emotional stimuli and investigate the extent to which individual differences in BIS moderate self-affirmation’s effects on diverse measures of emotional responding. In Experiment 1, I tested the hypothesis that affirming one’s values reduces the intensity of the startle eye-blink response, a psychophysiological measure of defensiveness, to threatening emotional stimuli, especially for those high in the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). For those high in BIS, self-affirmation reduced startle eye-blink magnitudes to threatening images. In Experiment 2, I tested the hypothesis that affirmed participants higher in BIS sensitivity would have larger late positive potentials, an upward going brainwave known to indicate processing of stimuli, to threatening images compared to those lower in BIS. For those high in BIS, self-affirmation sustained the LPP over time during negative picture viewing. In Experiment 3, I tested the hypothesis that nonaffirmed participants higher in BIS would self-report less emotional reactivity, more attentional disengagement, and more emotion regulation. These hypotheses were not supported. These findings suggest that self-affirmation can affect basic emotional responding, particularly at the psychophysiological level.
Crowell, Adrienne L (2016). The Effects of Self-Affirmation on Basic Emotional Responses. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from