Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 293–311 | Cite as

Self-Affirmation Theory and the Science of Well-Being

  • Andrew J. Howell
Review Article

Abstract

Social psychological self-affirmation research shows that value affirmations often boost adaptive functioning. Yet, such effects are under-recognized within the fields of well-being studies and positive psychology. This paper reviews self-affirmation theory and the principles by which self-affirmation is understood to facilitate resilient responses to self-threats. Next, it reviews research on the impact of self-affirmation on well-being, including feeling good and functioning well. The positive-activity model is employed to conceptualize self-affirmation as a well-being intervention and to underscore potential mediators and moderators of the relationship between self-affirmation and well-being. Future lines of investigation are outlined, including the role of self-affirmation within existing well-being interventions, the use of self-affirmation to enhance other well-being interventions, and the measurement of individual differences in trait self-affirmation in the prediction of well-being.

Keywords

Self-affirmation Resilience Well-being Positive psychology 

References

  1. Armitage, C. J. (2015). A brief psychological intervention to protect subjective well-being in a community sample. Quality of Life Research,. doi: 10.1007/s11136-015-1076-6.Google Scholar
  2. Blanton, H., Cooper, J., Skurnik, I., & Aronson, J. (1997). When bad things happen to good feedback: Exacerbating the need for self-justification with self-affirmations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 684–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burson, A., Crocker, J., & Mischkowski, D. (2012). Two types of value-affirmation: Implications for self-control following social exclusion. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 510–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cooke, R., Trebaczyk, H., Harris, P., & Wright, A. J. (2014). Self-affirmation promotes physical activity. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 36, 217–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Critcher, C. R., & Dunning, D. (2015). Self-affirmations provide a broader perspective on self-threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crocker, J., Niiya, Y., & Mischkowski, D. (2008). Why does writing about important values reduce defensiveness? Self-affirmation and the role of positive, other-directed feelings. Psychological Science, 19, 740–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dambrun, M., & Ricard, M. (2011). Self-centeredness and selflessness: A theory of self-based psychological functioning and its consequences for happiness. Review of General Psychology, 15, 138–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D-w, Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). New well-being measures: Short scales to assess flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 97, 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Donaldson, S. I., Dollwet, M., & Rao, M. A. (2015). Happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning revisited: Examining the peer-reviewed literature linked to positive psychology. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10, 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ehret, P. J., LaBrie, J. W., Santerre, C., & Sherman, D. K. (2015). Self-affirmation and motivational interviewing: Integrating perspectives to reduce resistance and increase efficacy of alcohol interventions. Health Psychology Review, 9, 83–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Epton, T., & Harris, P. R. (2008). Self-affirmation promotes health behavior change. Health Psychology, 27, 746–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Epton, T., Harris, P. R., Kane, R., van Koningsbruggen, G. M., & Sheeran, P. (2015). The impact of self-affirmation on health-behavior change: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology, 34, 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Exline, J. J., & Zell, A. L. (2009). Empathy, self-affirmation, and forgiveness: The moderating roles of gender and entitlement. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28, 1071–1099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ferrer, R. A., Shmueli, D., Bergman, H. E., Harris, P. R., & Klein, W. M. P. (2012). Effects of self-affirmation on implementation intentions and the moderating role of affect. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 300–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gable, S. L., & Reis, H. T. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 195–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Good, A., Harris, P. R., Jessop, D., & Abraham, C. (2015). Open-mindedness can decrease persuasion among adolescents: The role of self-affirmation. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20, 228–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harris, P. R., Brearley, I., Sheeran, P., Barker, M., Klein, W. M. P., Creswell, J. D., et al. (2014). Combining self-affirmation with implementation intentions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. Health Psychology, 33, 729–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hart, K. E., & Sasso, T. (2011). Mapping the contours of contemporary positive psychology. Canadian Psychology, 52, 82–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jaser, S. S., Patel, N., Rothman, R. L., Choi, L., & Whittemore, R. (2014). Check it! A randomized pilot of a positive psychology intervention to improve adherence in adolescents with Type 1 diabetes. The Diabetes Educator, 40, 659–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Keyes, C. L. M. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 539–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knowles, M. L., Lucas, G. M., Molden, D. C., Gardner, W. L., & Dean, K. K. (2010). There’s no substitute for belonging: Self-affirmation following social and non-social threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 173–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Koole, S. L., Smeets, K., van Knippenberg, A., & Dijksterhuis, A. (1999). The cessation of rumination through self-affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 111–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lannin, D. G., Guyll, M., Vogel, D. L., & Madon, S. (2013). Reducing the stigma associated with seeking psychotherapy through self-affirmation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60, 508–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The how, why, what, when, and who of happiness: Mechanisms underlying the success of positive activity interventions. In J. Gruber & J. T. Moskowitz (Eds.), Positive emotion: Integrating the light sides and dark sides (pp. 473–495). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lindsay, E. K., & Creswell, J. D. (2014). Helping the self help others: Self-affirmation increases self-compassion and pro-social behaviors. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lyubomirsky, S., & Della Porta, M. D. (2010). Boosting happiness, buttressing resilience: Results from cognitive and behavioral interventions. In J. W. Reich, A. J. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications (pp. 450–464). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  28. Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 57–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McGuire, W. J., & McGuire, C. V. (1996). Enhancing self-esteem by directed-thinking tasks: Cognitive and affective positivity asymmetries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1117–1125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McQueen, A., & Klein, W. M. P. (2006). Experimental manipulations of self-affirmation: A systematic review. Self and Identity, 5, 289–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Munro, G. D., & Stansbury, J. A. (2009). The dark side of self-affirmation: Confirmation bias and illusory correlation in response to threatening information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1143–1153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nelson, S. K., Fuller, J. A. K., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Beyond self-protection: Self-affirmation benefits hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 998–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: APA Press and Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Pietersma, S., & Dijkstra, A. (2012). Cognitive self-affirmation inclination: An individual difference in dealing with self-threats. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rusk, R. D., & Waters, L. E. (2013). Tracing size, reach, impact, and breadth of positive psychology. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 207–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schimel, J., Arndt, J., Banko, K. M., & Cook, A. (2004). Not all self-affirmations were created equal: The cognitive and social benefits of affirming the intrinsic (versus extrinsic) self. Social Cognition, 22, 75–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schmeichel, B. J., & Vohs, K. (2009). Self-affirmation and self-construal: Affirming core values counteracts ego depletion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 770–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schnabel, N., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Demystifying values-affirmation interventions: Writing about social belonging is a key to buffering against identity threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 663–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schumann, K. (2014). An affirmed self and a better apology: The effect of self-affirmation on transgressors’ responses to victims. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 54, 89–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sedikides, C., & Strube, M. J. (1997). Self-evaluation: To thine own self be good, to thine own self be sure, to thine own self be true, and to thine own self be better. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 209–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  46. Sheldon, K. M. (2011). What’s positive about positive psychology? Reducing value-bias and enhancing integration with the field. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 421–429). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sheldon, K. M., Kashdan, T. B., & Steger, M. F. (2011). Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 421–429). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2002). Accepting threatening information: Self-affirmation and the reduction of defensive biases. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 119–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sherman, D. K., & Hartson, K. A. (2011). Reconciling self-protection with self-improvement: Self-affirmation theory. In M. Alicke & C. Sedikides (Eds.), The handbook of self-enhancement and self-protection (pp. 128–151). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  50. Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 467–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 261–302). New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sweeney, A. M., & Moyer, A. (2015). Self-affirmation and responses to health messages: A meta-analysis on intentions and behavior. Health Psychology, 34, 149–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., de Castro, B. O., & Reijntjes, A. (2012). Arousing “gentle passions” in young adolescents: Sustained experimental effects of value affirmations on prosocial feelings and behaviors. Developmental Psychology, 48, 103–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Tongeren, D. R., Green, J. D., Hulsey, T. L., Legare, C. H., Bromley, D. G., & Houtman, A. M. (2014). A meaning-based approach to humility: Relationship affirmation reduces worldview defense. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 42, 62–69.Google Scholar
  55. Vohs, K. D., Park, J. K., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2013). Self-affirmation can enable goal disengagement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 14–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Walsh, R. (2011). Lifestyle and mental health. American Psychologist, 66, 579–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Walton, G. M. (2014). The new science of wise psychological interventions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 73–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52, 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMacEwan UniversityEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations