Project Overview +

We propose self-affirmation as a theory driven intervention to improve self-efficacy for physical activity in sedentary, overweight adults. In particular, we hypothesize that self-affirmation manipulations that focus on a participantís strengths, delivered prior to exposure to a targeted health communication, will reduce defensive processing of messages (e.g. counter arguing), increase self-efficacy to perform the target health behavior, and may lead to increased behavior change, compared to a non-affirmation control.

Aims +

Aim 1a. To boost self-efficacy in response to health communications using tailored self-affirmations.

Aim 1b. Create researcher-generated affirmations that produce effects similar to self-generated affirmations.

Aim 2.
Examine the neurocognitive effects of self-affirmation on processing of subsequent health communications, and their relationship to behavior change.

Participants +

Participants (n=45) are overweight adults (ages 18-64) whose BMI puts them at increased risk for chronic disease (BMI = 25+)

Intervention +

The proposed study consists of a baseline intake session in which participants are provided with accelerometers, followed by a one week baseline period, an intervention session at the UM fMRI Center, a three week follow-up assessment period, and an endpoint online measurement session. 

Participants are assigned to one of three treatment conditions (self-generated affirmation, researcher-generated affirmation, control).  During the intervention session, following exposure to their assigned affirmation/no-affirmation condition, participants are exposed to targeted health communications promoting increases in day-to-day physical activity. Physical activity are assessed using accelerometers for the week prior to and three weeks following the intervention. Participants undergo fMRI during the intervention session in which affirmation and physical activity messages are delivered.

Neural predictors of synergy between self-affirmation and message tailoring

09/01/2011 - 08/31/2012


National Cancer Institute

Principal Investigator:

Emily B. Falk, PhD