Decreasing Resistance by Affirming the Self

Authors: Julia Zuwerink Jacks (Greensboro—North Carolina) & Maureen e. O’Brien (Louisiana State University at Alexandria)

Publication: Resistance and Persuasion. Ed. Eric S. Knowles & Jay A. Linn. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers

Year: 2004

Focus Area: Persuasion, Prevention

Relevance: The ability to facilitate acceptance of safe behavior and increase resistance towards dangerous behavior is an important opportunity for fraud prevention professionals.

Summary: This chapter outlines a series of studies examining the relationship between self-affirmation and susceptibility to persuasion.

  • Self-affirmed individuals are more likely to process a persuasive message in an open-minded fashion.  By reinforcing the target’s positive self-perception, the persuasive message is perceived as less threatening, making resistance less necessary.
  • The extent of a person’s susceptibility depends on the relationship between the attribute being affirmed (e.g., independence, cooperation) and the persuasive message.
  • The persuasive power of self-affirmation is only effective if the affirmation is unrelated to the persuasive message, or if the self-affirmation is compatible with the message (e.g., “you are so supportive” and “would you mind driving me to the bank?”).
  • If the self-affirmation is incompatible (e.g. reinforcing a person’s sensible caution and then asking the person to behave recklessly) then resistance increases.

Bolstering potential fraud victims’ perceptions of their own careful deliberation and sensible caution may increase resistance to a fraudster’s ploy of the quick sale, regardless of the specific fraud type.

Author Abstract: “You’re the coolest person I’ve ever met,” she said to Heather. They were drinking sweet tea on the patio and staring into the fishpond, both tired from a long day of classes. Heather wasn’t sure where her friend was going with this, but of course she didn’t mind the flattery. “I mean, of all the friends I’ve met in college you’ve got to be the nicest,” continued Jen. “You’re warm, caring, honest. Like, who else would have run after that man to give him the $20 he dropped? I would have kept it. I mean, like he wasn’t even good looking! What else have you done like that? It’s so . . . it’s so honest!”

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