Self-Affirmation Leads To Behavior Change
Self-affirmation has turned out to be an effective technique for increasing people’s receptivity to new ideas. We all know how well (HA!) people take advice about quitting drinking or eating healthier. They often get defensive and close their minds to the conversation. So, in this experiment, researchers encouraged subjects to self-affirm, that is, to get in touch with their deeply held core values. Then they delivered messages about health.
They used fMRIs with the experimental group (those getting in touch with core values) and with a control group (not getting in touch). The researchers found that the region of the brain (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) associated with self reflection processes and positive valuations lit up differently in the two groups. The experimental group- those using self affirmation techniques- lit up, meaning they were more positive. Bottom line – after people affirmed their own values, they were more open to receiving messages.
The study concludes that the initial affirmation of core values helps people feel more positive which helps them to change. It makes sense – when we stay in touch with core values, we are protected from some of the outside nonsense that threatens our well-being, and we can act on our values.
source: Proceedings of National Academies of Science, 2015. Emily Falk et al.