Affirmed yet unaware: exploring the role of awareness in the process of self-affirmation

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Nov;97(5):745-64. doi: 10.1037/a0015451.


Three studies investigated whether self-affirmation can proceed without awareness, whether people are aware of the influence of experimental self-affirmations, and whether such awareness facilitates or undermines the self-affirmation process. The authors found that self-affirmation effects could proceed without awareness, as implicit self-affirming primes (utilizing sentence-unscrambling procedures) produced standard self-affirmation effects (Studies 1 and 3). People were generally unaware of self-affirmation's influence, and self-reported awareness was associated with decreased impact of the affirmation (Studies 1 and 2). Finally, affirmation effects were attenuated when people learned that self-affirmation was designed to boost self-esteem (Study 2) or told of a potential link between self-affirmation and evaluations of threatening information (Study 3). Together, these studies suggest not only that affirmation processes can proceed without awareness but also that increased awareness of the affirmation may diminish its impact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Aptitude
  • Arousal
  • Awareness*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Identification
  • Social Values
  • Suggestion*
  • Thinking
  • Young Adult