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defensiveness

Self-affirmation changes health behavior

Image of a man snapping a cigarette in half

By Tracy Epton

People engage in many behaviors that are bad for their health such as smoking, not exercising, eating unhealthily or drinking too much alcohol. What is intriguing is that people continue pursuing an unhealthy lifestyle even when they are confronted by information that tells them that these choices are bad for them; they minimize the risks or even deny them altogether. Self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) offers an explanation of why people do this.