Fatalistic responses to different types of genetic risk information: exploring the role of self-malleability

E.A.M. Claassen, L. Henneman, H.C.W. de Vet, D.L. Knol, T. Marteau, D.R.M. Timmermans

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Providing people with genetic risk information may induce a sense of fatalism, the belief that little can be done to reduce the risk. We postulated that fatalism is a function of health risk information and individual differences in self-perception. DNA-based risk information was hypothesised to generate more fatalism than risk information based on family history or non-genetic risk information. Moreover, people who view themselves as more rather than less able to change self-attributes were hypothesised to respond least fatalistically. Factor analyses in separate samples were used to construct a five-item 'Malleability of self' measure. Predictive validity of the measure was tested using a within-subjects analogue design. Participants responded to three scenario vignettes in which they were informed of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In Scenario 1, risk was ascertained by DNA testing, family history and cholesterol testing; in Scenario 2, it was ascertained by family history and cholesterol testing; in Scenario 3, risk was ascertained by cholesterol testing alone. Scenario 1 was associated with least perceived control over cholesterol level and CVD risk. People who viewed themselves as more able to change self-attributes experienced more control in all three scenarios. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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