A Meaning-Based Approach to Humility: Relationship Affirmation Reduces Worldview Defense

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014


Humans are notoriously resistant to changing their longstanding beliefs and often act defensively when they encounter individuals holding divergent beliefs. We introduce a meaning-based approach to humility (e.g., reduced defensiveness) with the claim that the desire for meaning motivates individuals to ardently defend their central beliefs. We propose that affirming meaning prior to encountering attitudinally-dissimilar individuals should reduce defensiveness (e.g., less negative attitudes toward those who challenge their beliefs). Christian undergraduates (N = 79) were randomly assigned to a relationship affirmation, self-affirmation, or neutral priming condition, and then received negative feedback from an ostensibly antireligious individual (i.e., outgroup member) after writing an essay explicating their beliefs about an important social or cultural topic. Relationship affirmation reduced defensiveness via more positive ratings of the individual who derogated their beliefs, providing initial evidence for our theoretical approach. Implications for a meaning-based approach to humility are discussed.

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