Impact of Manipulated Perceived Efficacy and Self-Affirmation on Measures of Risk, Efficacy, and Intention
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In the developed world, the principal sources of morbidity and mortality are diseases of lifestyle, and one of the central goals of health promotion is the encouragement of risk-reducing behaviour. In a series of 3 studies, the present program of research examined the effect of self-affirmation and manipulated perceived efficacy on perceptions of efficacy, risk perception, and risk-reducing behavioural intentions. Participants were undergraduate students who were randomly assigned to a self-affirmation manipulation (self-affirmation versus no self-affirmation) and a perceived efficacy manipulation (high versus low versus baseline), followed by exposure to negative health risk information (risk of a heart attack or colorectal cancer). Across the 3 studies, factor analyses indicated 3 distinct categories of risk-reducing intentions: intentions associated with maintaining an active lifestyle, seeking medical advice and assessment, and maintaining a healthy diet. There was little evidence that self-affirmation affected efficacy, risk, or intentions. Structural equation modeling and meta-analytic analyses suggested the presence of a suppression effect for risk perception: a manipulation designed to increase perceived efficacy had direct positive effects on risk, but also had indirect negative effects on risk, with measured efficacy acting as a mediator. These analyses also showed that the 3 categories of behavioural intentions had distinct (and often different) antecedents. These results highlight the complexity of variables in health risk behaviour. Implications and future directions are discussed.