Attenuating desirable responding: a comparison of self-compassion and self-affirmation strategies

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O'Brien, Karen Angela
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Research has shown that desirable responding can be detrimental to social relationships, achievement and health. This study used an experimental design to (a) induce an increase in desirable responding through threat to self-image and then (b) compare the effectiveness of self-compassionate and self-affirming writing in attenuating that increase. Control groups included no threat exposure, threat exposure alone and threat exposure plus neutral writing. Desirable responding was measured along two dimensions: self-enhancement and exaggerated virtue. Results show the threat did not result in the predicted increase in desirable responding so the effectiveness of the two strategies with regards to attenuating increases in desirable responding could not be examined and compared. However, results do reveal a difference in the mechanism of these two strategies. Engaging in self-compassionate writing resulted in a significant decrease in exaggerated virtue whereas being self-affirmed resulted in a significant increase, suggesting a possible benefit of a self-compassion strategy.
self-compassion, self-affirmation, desirable responding, self-enhancement