the role of emotion regulation in the defensive processing of fear-arousing health-risk information
Individuals often respond defensively to emotive "fear appeals" that target people's unhealthy behaviors and aim to instill motivation for behavioral change. Both classic and contemporary models of defensiveness assume that these defensive reactions allow people to down-regulate the negative emotional experience resulting from the fear appeals (i.e., to feel better about their unhealthy behavior). However, no study to date has directly examined emotional regulatory processes, such as cognitive reappraisal, that may occur during fear appeals. In the present study, female participants' caffeine use and self-rated cancer risk were measured before they viewed a health message about a link between caffeine and ovarian cancer. Implicit state affect was measured during and after the message, and then participants rated their acceptance of the message and their own cancer risk again. Trait reappraisal interacted with reported caffeine use to predict less message acceptance. Evidence for the role of affect in defensiveness was not found.