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Increasing Receptivity to Health Communications: Effects of Self-Transcendence and Affirmation Priming on Neural Responses to Health Messages and Behavior Change (Top 5 Paper)

Sun, May 28, 15:30 to 16:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 2, Indigo Ballroom D

Abstract

Self-affirmation can increase health message receptivity by engaging individuals to reflect on their core values. We propose that self-transcendence, the process of redirecting attention from self-interests to the wellbeing of others, is a key component promoting receptivity. To test this, sedentary adults were randomly assigned to a self-affirmation, self-transcendence, or control task before listening to health messages promoting physical activity in an fMRI scanner. Both self-affirmation and self-transcendence exercises elicited greater activity in the brain’s subjective value network (ventromedial prefrontal cortex [vmPFC]); however, self-transcendence exercise also recruited greater right temporal parietal junction activity, implicated in social cognition. In the subsequent health messages task, the affirmation and transcendence conditions produced comparable increases in vmPFC activity (relative to controls), a plausible neural index of message receptivity, which predicted decreases in sedentary behavior. These findings support self-transcendence as an effective health intervention strategy, and contribute to previous debates on the mechanisms of self-affirmation.

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