Impact of Manipulated Perceived Efficacy and Self-Affirmation on Measures of Risk, Efficacy, and Intention

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Davidson, Megan
self-affirmation , perceived efficacy , risk , behavioural intentions
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.
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