Self-Affirming Beliefs Linked to Less Alcohol Consumption

According to a study led by Christopher J. Armitage of the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, United Kingdom, individuals who engage in self-affirmations consume less alcohol than those who do not. Armitage and his colleagues enlisted 93 men and 185 women, all between the ages of 18 and 55, for their study. They participants were told that they would be involved in a study evaluating social and personal beliefs and were asked to fill out a private questionnaire at the beginning of the study and again one month later. The participants were divided into groups, the first of which was told to choose their response to threatening situation from one of four positive and self-affirming scenarios. The second group, which served as the control, received a distractor task. Each group was questioned about their alcohol use and specific demographic data was gathered.

“The key finding was that self-affirmation, regardless of mode of delivery, was effective in reducing alcohol intake by facilitating the processing of health-risk information,” said the team. “By the end of the study, participants in the two self-affirmation conditions drank on average 8 fewer grams of pure alcohol compared with participants in the control condition, and crucially, were much more likely to be drinking “in moderation” (i.e., within government-recommended levels), which is the point at which health benefits might start to accrue.” The researchers added “Consistent with a growing body of research on the impact of self-affirmation on the processing of threatening health messages, the present study showed that despite perceiving more threat and engaging in greater defensive avoidance, people who were self-affirmed were less likely to derogate the message and were more likely to regard the message as being of high quality and to engage in more positive reactions to the message.”

Armitage, Christopher J., Peter R. Harris, and Madelynne A. Arden. “Evidence That Self-affirmation Reduces Alcohol Consumption: Randomized Exploratory Trial with a New, Brief Means of Self-affirming.” Health Psychology 30.5 (2011): 633-41. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Norm


    September 14th, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    So just telling myself that I am good enough and strong enough ala Stuart Smiley of SNL will keep me from falling off the wagon? Not so sure.

  • Diana.B


    September 14th, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    There is no force for someone greater than himself and nobody better to convince one of something better than himself.

    Although it may not be as easy as it sounds,which is true I’m sure,it is certainly possible to talk to yourself and do something about a situation.What others tell may not make sense to you or you may not pay much attention to it.But when you have been involved in thinking about it and then decide upon something and convince yourself,it sticks!

  • Tasha c

    Tasha c

    September 14th, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Those who self affirm are usually mentally stronger than those who don’t. So, consuming less alcohol is easier for those who are mentally stronger because they have much more will power.

    But this study doesn’t prove that by self affirming you will consume less alcohol. It is simply saying that those who self affirm consume less alcohol. So, really it could just be the type of person who self affirms is also the kind of person that consumes less alcohol. Meaning that the use of self affirming is useless.

    What I would like to see is an experiment where a group’s alcohol consumption is recorded for a week without self affirmation, then for a week where they do self affirm. This would put this theory to the ultimate test. Me personally, I’m a little suspicious.

  • Tiara


    September 15th, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    There is nothing that has more influence on a person than his own will. It canchange everything. And sometimes just the will power opens new doors for a person. Has happened to me and I have no doubts that it can happen someone trying to quit alcohol too.

  • Dom Conroy

    Dom Conroy

    September 17th, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    @Tasha C – the research reported in this study involves an experimental manipulation, meaning that participants are randomly allocated to being ‘self-affirmed’ or not. This means that, regardless of a person’s dispositional propensity to reduce their level of alcohol consumption, self-affirmation appears to produce a reduction in the experimental group compared with the control group (i.e. those who have not been self-affirmed). Of course, the study can’t ‘prove’ anything in itself, but it does add some credibility to the role of self-affirmation manipulations in this particular health context. The potential study you describe in your last paragraph is an important ongoing question around the durability of self-affirmation effects.

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