Week+6+required+Sherman++2009++self-affirmation+on+SNS -...

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Psychological Vulnerability and Stress: The Effects of Self-Affirmation on Sympathetic Nervous System Responses to Naturalistic Stressors David K. Sherman and Debra P. Bunyan University of California, Santa Barbara J. David Creswell Carnegie Mellon University Lisa M. Jaremka University of California, Santa Barbara Objective: Everyday stressors can threaten valued aspects of the self. Self-affirmation theory posits that this threat could be attenuated if individuals affirm alternative self-resources. The present study examined whether self-affirmation would buffer cumulative stress responses to an ongoing academic stressor. Design: Undergraduate participants provided 15-hr urine samples on the morning of their most stressful examination and baseline samples 14 days prior to the examination. Participants were randomly assigned to the self-affirmation condition where they wrote two essays on important values over the 2-week period prior to exam, or a control condition. Main Outcome Measures: Samples were analyzed for urinary catecholamine excretion (epinephrine, norepinephrine), an indicator of sympathetic nervous system activation. Participants also indicated their appraisals of the examina- tion experience. Results: Participants in the control condition increased in cumulative epinephrine levels from baseline to examination, whereas participants in the self-affirmation condition did not differ from baseline to examination. The buffering effect of self-affirmation was strongest among individuals most concerned about negative college evaluation, those most psychologically vulner- able. Conclusion: The findings demonstrate that sympathetic nervous system responses to natural- istic stressors can be attenuated by self-affirmation. Discussion centers on psychological pathways by which affirmation can reduce stress and the implications of the findings for health outcomes among chronically stressed participants. Keywords: academic stressors, catecholamines, self-affirmation, stress, stress interventions Midterm examinations for a student, job performance evalu- ations for an employee, and medical tests for a patient are all regularly occurring stressful events. The anticipation of and preparation for these events can be stressful, in part, because being a good student, a valued employee, or a healthy person are central aspects of how many individuals see themselves, and the outcome of the exam, evaluation, or medical test can affect both one’s standing on the domain, as well as how one is perceived by others. Because stress increases one’s susceptibil- ity to a wide range of pathological medical conditions such as hypertension and myocardial infarction (e.g., Lundberg, 2006; Marmot, Bosma, Hemingway, Brunner, & Stansfeld, 1997), as well as increased incidence of common ailments such as colds (S. Cohen, Tyrrell, & Smith, 1993), identifying psychological means by which individuals can cope adaptively to stressful situations is a topic of historical and contemporary research interest (see Carver, 2007; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Miller & S. Cohen, 2001 for reviews).
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