A new study in Psychological Science bears out this benefit of self-affirmation. Volunteers were first asked to rank six values in order of importance to them. Then half spent five minutes writing about why their top value matters—a task designed to boost self-affirmation. The other half spent the time writing about why that value doesn’t actually matter—a task designed to undermine their sense of self-worth.
Afterward, all the volunteers moved on to another activity—one that gave them ample opportunity to screw up. Volunteers were asked to press a button when the letter M appear on a screen, but refrain from pressing it when the letter W popped up. To make it more nerve-wracking, whenever they made an error, the message “Wrong!” flashed on the screen.
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