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PsychologyOur news, events & seminars

Self-affirmation and the response to health-risk information Seminar

12:30 - 13:30
26 November 2015
University of Southampton Highfield Campus Building 44 (Shackleton) Room 3031/3033

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Sue McNally on 02380 595150 or email .

Event details

Self-affirmation (e.g., by reflecting upon one’s important strengths or values) has been found to promote less biased processing of health-risk messages, producing potentially beneficial changes in health-related cognitions and behaviour. Health topics have included breast cancer risks from alcohol, the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables or of taking exercise, and graphic warnings on cigarette packs. I will describe our studies involving self-affirmation, discuss the theoretical underpinnings of the approach, and consider the theoretical and applied implications of our findings.

Speaker information

Professor Peter Harris, University of Sussex. I am a social and health psychologist. My principal research interests lie in the cognitive, emotional and behavioural response to risk, especially health risks. Recent projects focus on using self-affirming (usually by getting people to reflect briefly on their core values or personal strengths) to encourage less defensive responding to risk information and the impact of this on subsequent behaviour (funded by the ESRC in the UK, the NSF in the USA, and the SSHRC in Canada). Other current research projects include exploring how people search the Internet for risk information (funded by the ESRC), how people respond to online patient experiences (funded by the NIHR), research related to a long standing interest in optimistic bias (the tendency to believe that other people are more at risk of future negative events, such as disease or misfortune, than oneself; various funding sources), and how people respond to the threats posed by infectious diseases, such as seasonal and pandemic influenza (funded by the Department of Health). I also research how people cope with chronic illness, particularly epilepsy. I work on these projects collaboratively with colleagues in the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and Tasmania, and with UK colleagues at various universities, including Sheffield, Northumbria, and Oxford.

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