Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Meg Gerrard

Second Advisor

Frederick X. Gibbons


Past research has established that losing one's freedom to act results in arousal and increased motivation to do the restricted behavior (Brehm, 1966). However, in cases where the individual has previously engaged in the behavior the message also contains an implicit message of blame. To date, no experimental studies have been conducted to separate the influence of these two messages. The current study examined the impact of message characteristics on health cognitions related to binge drinking. The primary goal was to investigate the role of blame for previous excessive consumption and demand for future behavior change on health cognitions related to binge drinking. A secondary goal was to examine self-esteem as a moderator of the reactions to the messages. Participants completed initial measures of binge drinking behavior and self-esteem in an earlier mass-testing session. Specifically 178 undergraduates who reported frequently engaging in binge drinking behavior were assigned to either a blame or absolution message concerning past behavior followed by either a demand to change behavior or a suggestion to change future behavior. It was predicted that self-esteem would moderate the reactions to the messages such that participants with high self-esteem in the blame for past behavior and demand to change future behavior would exhibit the strongest amount of defensiveness (e.g., higher intentions to drink, higher willingness to drink, lower perceptions of vulnerability to liver damage). Results indicated that participants who were demanded to change their behavior reported lower intentions to binge drink than were participants who were suggested to change their behavior. Moreover, women with high self-esteem who were blamed for their past behavior and presented with a weak change message reported the highest willingness to binge drink. It is clear that both messages are impactful and more research is necessary to identify conditions that are likely to result in compliant and defensive cognitions concerning behavior change.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Monica Joy Reis-Bergan



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

53 pages