Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rewriting self-fulfilling prophecies about social rejection

Stinson et al. provide yet another example of how even a very modest intervention to alter self-image can have long lasting effects:
Chronically insecure individuals often behave in ways that result in the very social rejection that they most fear. We predicted that this typical self-fulfilling prophecy is not immutable. Self-affirmation may improve insecure individuals’ relational security, and this improvement may allow them to express more welcoming social behavior. In a longitudinal experiment, a 15-min self-affirmation improved both the relational security and experimenter-rated social behavior of insecure participants up to 4 weeks after the initial intervention. Moreover, the extent to which self-affirmation improved insecure participants’ relational security at 4 weeks predicted additional improvements in social behavior another 4 weeks after that. Our finding that insecure participants continued to reap the social benefits of self-affirmation up to 8 weeks after the initial intervention demonstrates that it is indeed possible to rewrite the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection.
The experiment used the usual gaggle of psychology undergraduates. After answering a relational security questionaire,
Participants were assigned to one of two conditions, in both of which they ranked 11 values (e.g., academics) according to personal importance. Participants in the self-affirmation condition were instructed to write several paragraphs describing why their top-ranked value was important to them. They then listed the top two reasons why they picked that value as most important and indicated the extent to which their top-ranked value influenced their lives and was an important part of their self-image. Participants in the control condition were also instructed to write several paragraphs and answer similar questions, except that we asked this group to focus on their ninth-ranked value and why it might be important to someone else.


  1. This reminds me of the research I heard presented at the Fall 2011 Learning and the Brain conference by Dr. Dolores Albarracin on the use of the word You rather than the word I in our self talk and in our words to spur on others. Are you familiar with her work at the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champagne?

  2. No, but looks interesting, I just had a glance at her web pages.