EP 159 Psych Files Brief #3: Evidence in Favor of Affirmations? The Licensing Effect and the Power of Gossip


What’s Wrong With a Little Gossip?

While some research points out that gossipers are in general disliked, there is an upside: sharing negative gossip can actually help two people like each other better. In this episode we’ll find out the benefits of sharing a tasty piece of negative gossip.

The Licensing Effect

If you take supplements you need to hear this news about how you might be using your taking of the supplements to “license” other activities that aren’t so good for your health.

  • Chiou, Wen-Bin, Yang, Chao-Chin and Wan, Chao-Chin (2011). Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation: Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797611416253


Evidence in Favor of Affirmations?

In a previous episode on self affirmations I presented some strongly negative evidence. However, in this study there might be a role for affirmations – especially in helping people with social anxiety to feel a bit more confident.

  • Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S. and Zanna, M.P. (2011). Rewriting the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Social Rejection: Self-Affirmation Improves Relational Security and Social Behavior up to 2 Months Later. Psychological Science, doi:10.1177/0956797611417725.

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Episode 104: Can Positive Affirmations Improve Your Self Esteem?

Can positive affirmations help raise your self esteem? People use daily affirmations and money affirmations to help them feel more confident, build their self esteem and bring positive events into their lives. But do they really work? If not, then what will? We explore these questions in this episode of The Psych Files.


We propose that, contrary to popular belief, positive self-affirmations can be useless for some people, even though they may benefit others. They may even backfire, making some people feel worse rather than better. – Wood, et. al, 2009

Affirmations and Self Esteem

  • Wood, J.V., Perunovie, E., & Lee, J.W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 20, 860-865.
  • The idea of latitudes of acceptance was mentioned in this podcast as being one of the reasons why people with low self esteem would probably not be influenced by positive affirmations. This idea is part of what is called Social Judgment Theory.

  • My previous episode on self-esteem which you may find helpful was episode 9, "How Do You Really Raise Self Esteem? The Incredibles vs. American Idol"
  • Another episode that might be of interest is the one in which I discuss positive thinking and positive psychology, including the ideas of Aaron Beck, Martin Seligman and Albert Ellis.
  • I also have an episode on how some people use positive thinking to run away from their feelings