DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Despite vital contributions from psychological research, there remain considerable gaps in understanding why individuals engage in behavior that puts their health at risk. However, much of the research literature reveals that health decisions can be influenced by individuals' motivations pertaining to health as well as their motivations to maintain a sense of self-value. Further insights into effective interventions may be gained by considering factors that influence both sources of motivation. In this light an increasing amount of social psychological research shows that both sets of motives can be triggered by conscious and unconscious thoughts of death. Yet this framework has only recently been applied to behavioral health as research indicates that health threats such as cancer can activate concerns about mortality. The proposed research seeks to refine and extend understanding of the interface between mortality concerns and cancer relevant preventative behavior by investigating three central issues. Aim 1 is to examine the effectiveness of targeting health-oriented motivations in the context of health communications that explicitly activate thoughts of death. Aim 2 will examine the effectiveness of targeting self-oriented motivations in the context of health communications that implicitly activate thoughts of death. Aim 3 tests mechanisms by which these interventions can have enduring effects. The broad intention of the proposed project is thus to continue to reveal how concerns about death influence core psychological processes in a number of cancer-relevant areas, with the ultimate goal of reducing cancer rates by providing translational suggestions for more effective interventions.
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