Effects of self-affirming messages on smokers’ responses to health warnings


  • L. Kessels
  • K. Massar
  • J. de Vreede


Background: The aim of this study is to explore a new method of using self-affirmation theory to reduce defensive responses to health warning messages. Although self-affirmation suggests promising effects, the applicability for health campaigns is limited. In this new approach, participant’s self-concepts were affirmed via textual information integrated on cigarette packs. Below the health warning an affirming message was presented on cigarette packs. Methods: One hundred sixty four smokers were exposed to 5 cigarette packs showing health warnings (e.g.: “Smoking kills youâ€) in combination with either an affirming message or a non-affirming message to assess defensive responses on health warnings evaluations and self-efficacy measures. The moderating effect of nicotine dependency was also examined. Findings: Participants exposed to health warnings with an affirming message (affirmed participants) judged the warnings as more threatening than participants exposed to health warnings without an affirming message (non-affirmed participants). For participants with high nicotine dependence, an affirmation message resulted in a more positive evaluation of the health warnings and greater self-efficacy to stop smoking than a non-affirmation text. For participants with low nicotine dependence, there were no differences in health warning evaluation and self-efficacy levels between the affirmed and non-affirmed message conditions. Discussion: These results suggest promising effects of affirming messages incorporated in health warnings to reduce defensive responses.





Oral presentations