Illusions of Unique Invulnerability: Impact of Beliefs on Behavior
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH
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People tend to maintain certain positive illusions about themselves and their futures that may be adaptive in buffering their self-esteem and feelings of efficacy from the effects of negative or threatening feedback. The illusion of unique invulnerability is the expectation that others will be the victims of misfortune and negative events more so than oneself. One possible implication of holding this belief is that, if a false sense of security is fostered, actual vulnerability to experience negative events that one has control over for example, contracting lung cancer from smoking might be increased if self-protective behaviors are decreased. The purpose of this study was to determine 1 what personality characteristics are related to this belief in unique invulnerability, 2 whether unique invulnerability is related to assumption of risk in behavior. 3 how accurately, people assess the riskiness of their own behavior, and 4 how beliefs in unique invulnerability change over time and experience with risk. Subjects were 164 male and female Reserve Officer Training Corps ROTC cadets, ages 17-20, engaged in rappelling down a tall structure, an inherently risky activity. A measure of unique invulnerability and several personality measures were administered before rappelling, and risk-relevant behavior was observed during rappelling. Personal safety ratings were obtained and the invulnerability measure was readministered after rappelling.
- Anatomy and Physiology