Uncovering an Existential Barrier to Breast Self-Exam Behavior

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Terror management theory, Breast self-exams, Creatureliness

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The present research applies an analysis derived from terror management theory to the health domain of breast examination, and in doing so uncovers previously unrecognized factors that may contribute to women’s reluctance to perform breast self-examinations (BSEs). In Study 1, when concerns about mortality were primed, reminders of human beings’ physical nature (i.e., creatureliness) reduced intentions to conduct BSEs compared to reminders of humans’ uniqueness. In Study 2, women conducted shorter exams on a breast model (an experience found to increase death-thought accessibility) when creatureliness was primed compared to a uniqueness and no essay condition. In Study 3, after a creatureliness prime, women performed shorter BSEs when a placebo did not provide an alternative explanation for their discomfort compared to when it did. Advances for theory and breast self-exam promotion are discussed.

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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, v. 44, issue 2, p. 260-274