We present an "affirmation as perspective" model of how self-affirmations alleviate threat and defensiveness. Self-threats dominate the working self-concept, leading to a constricted self disproportionately influenced by the threat. Self-affirmations expand the size of the working self-concept, offering a broader perspective in which the threat appears more narrow and self-worth realigns with broader dispositional self-views (Experiment 1). Self-affirmed participants, relative to those not affirmed, indicated that threatened self-aspects were less all-defining of the self (although just as important), and this broader perspective on the threat mediated self-affirmation's reduction of defensiveness (Experiment 2). Finally, having participants complete a simple perspective exercise, which offered a broader perspective on the self without prompting affirmational thinking (Experiment 3a), reduced defensiveness in a manner equivalent to and redundant with a standard self-affirmation manipulation (Experiment 3b). The present model offers a unifying account for a wide variety of seemingly unrelated findings and mysteries in the self-affirmation literature.
Keywords: defensiveness; perspective; self-affirmation; threat; trivialization.
© 2014 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.