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Psychological reactance theory (PRT; Brehm, 1966) posits that when something threatens or eliminates people’s freedom of behavior, they experience psychological reactance, a motivational state that drives freedom restoration. Complementing recent, discipline-specific reviews (e.g., Quick, Shen, & Dillard, 2013; Steindl, Jonas, Sittenthaler, Traut-Mattausch, & Greenberg, 2015), the current analysis integrates PRT research across fields in which it has flourished: social psychology and clinical psychology, as well as communication research. Moreover, the current review offers a rare synthesis of existing reactance measures. We outline five overlapping waves in the PRT literature: Wave 1: Theory proposal and testing; Wave 2: Contributions from clinical psychology; Wave 3: Contributions from communication research; Wave 4: Measurement of reactance; and Wave 5: Return to motivation. As part of our description of Wave 5, we detail scholars’ renewed focus on motivational aspects of the framework, and the ways in which this return to PRT’s motivational roots is allowing researchers to push its accuracy and applicability forward. We use this research that is already occurring in Wave 5 to outline three specific ways in which scholars can direct the continued application of motivation science to the advancement of PRT. Finally, as we outline in a future directions sections for each Wave, the assimilation of this research illustrates the ways in which an emphasis on motivation can expand and explain PRT research in communication, clinical psychology, and measurement.
Motivation Science
A 50-Year Review of Psychological Reactance Theory: Do
Not Read This Article
Benjamin D. Rosenberg and Jason T. Siegel
Online First Publication, December 21, 2017.
Rosenberg, B. D., & Siegel, J. T. (2017, December 21). A 50-Year Review of Psychological
Reactance Theory: Do Not Read This Article. Motivation Science. Advance online publication.
A 50-Year Review of Psychological Reactance Theory:
Do Not Read This Article
Benjamin D. Rosenberg
Chapman University
Jason T. Siegel
Claremont Graduate University
Psychological reactance theory (PRT; Brehm, 1966) posits that when something
threatens or eliminates people’s freedom of behavior, they experience psychological
reactance, a motivational state that drives freedom restoration. Complementing recent,
discipline-specific reviews (e.g., Quick, Shen, & Dillard, 2013; Steindl, Jonas, Sit-
tenthaler, Traut-Mattausch, & Greenberg, 2015), the current analysis integrates PRT
research across fields in which it has flourished: social psychology and clinical
psychology, as well as communication research. Moreover, the current review offers a
rare synthesis of existing reactance measures. We outline five overlapping waves in the
PRT literature: Wave 1: Theory proposal and testing; Wave 2: Contributions from
clinical psychology; Wave 3: Contributions from communication research; Wave 4:
Measurement of reactance; and Wave 5: Return to motivation. As part of our descrip-
tion of Wave 5, we detail scholars’ renewed focus on motivational aspects of the
framework, and the ways in which this return to PRT’s motivational roots is allowing
researchers to push its accuracy and applicability forward. We use this research that is
already occurring in Wave 5 to outline three specific ways in which scholars can direct
the continued application of motivation science to the advancement of PRT. Finally, as
we outline in a future directions sections for each Wave, the assimilation of this
research illustrates the ways in which an emphasis on motivation can expand and
explain PRT research in communication, clinical psychology, and measurement.
Keywords: communication, motivation, persuasion, reactance, resistance
Roughly 50 years ago, Brehm (1966) proposed
psychological reactance theory (PRT). According
to PRT, freedom of behavior is an important,
beneficial, and pervasive aspect of people’s lives;
when that freedom is threatened, they become
motivated to restore it (Brehm, 1966). This moti-
vation to restore threatened freedom, psychologi-
cal reactance, is PRT’s core construct, and has
catalyzed over five decades of research on the
topic. Complementing recent, discipline-specific
comprehensive reviews (Quick et al., 2013;
Steindl et al., 2015), in the current analysis, we
amalgamate PRT research across the multiple
fields in which it has flourished. As a result of
assimilating all of this research, we outline five
prominent, overlapping waves in the PRT litera-
ture: Wave 1: Theory proposal and testing, Wave
2: Contributions from clinical psychology, Wave
3: Contributions from communication research,
Wave 4: Measurement of reactance, and Wave 5:
Return to motivation. As part of Wave 5, we
indicate several possibilities for continued PRT
research, such as examining experiences other
than threats to valued behaviors that arouse reac-
tance (e.g., identity threat; Kray, Thompson, &
Galinsky, 2001). In addition, as a testament to the
explanatory power of motivation science, we sug-
gest that a focus on the motivational underpin-
nings of PRT can influence scholars in social and
clinical psychology, communication, and mea-
surement to continue advancement of the theory.
Wave 1: Theory Proposal and Testing
Psychological reactance theory (Brehm,
1966) was born out of the tradition of cognitive
inconsistency theories (for a recent review see
Benjamin D. Rosenberg, Crean College of Health and
Behavioral Sciences, Chapman University; Jason T. Siegel,
Department of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences,
Claremont Graduate University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Benjamin D. Rosenberg, Crean College of Health
and Behavioral Sciences, Chapman University, One Uni-
versity Drive Orange, CA 92866. E-mail: brosenbe@
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Motivation Science © 2017 American Psychological Association
2017, Vol. 0, No. 999, 000 2333-8113/17/$12.00
Proulx, Inzlicht, & Harmon-Jones, 2012), and
more specifically, out of cognitive dissonance
theory (Festinger, 1957). Indeed, Festinger was
Brehm’s dissertation advisor (Chadee, 2011),
and Brehm (1956) published one of the first
empirical tests of cognitive dissonance. Both
cognitive dissonance and PRT are focused on
motivational arousal and reduction; however,
Brehm (1966) focused on a specific motivation—
the motivation to maintain the freedom to
choose when and how to behave. Following
Brehm’s proposal and initial testing of PRT
(e.g., Brehm, 1966; Wicklund & Brehm, 1968),
researchers turned to further assessment and
clarification of its assumptions and core com-
Assumptions of PRT
Psychological reactance theory is based on
two assumptions. First, PRT assumes people
have a set of free behaviors they believe they
can enact (Brehm, 1966). According to Brehm,
free behaviors are acts people have engaged in
previously, are currently engaged in, and could
be engaged in the future. The second assump-
tion of PRT is that when people’s free behaviors
are threatened or eliminated, they become mo-
tivated to restore their freedom. To be sure,
people do not desire freedom, but its loss is
motivationally arousing (Brehm, 1966). These
two assumptions result in numerous predictions
about the characteristics of the freedoms and
threats that arouse reactance, as well as the
outcomes of reactance (for review see Brehm &
Brehm, 1981).
Components of PRT
For purposes of clarity, researchers have bro-
ken PRT into its component pieces and modeled
it based on order of occurrence (e.g., Dillard &
Shen, 2005): (a) presence of freedom, (b) elim-
ination or threat to freedom, (c) arousal of re-
actance, and (d) restoration of freedom.
Freedoms. The first component of PRT
comes from the assumption that people have
sets of free behaviors in which they can engage
in the present or future (Brehm, 1966). People
do not consider all behaviors as freedoms; they
exist only when two conditions are met: people
are aware of the freedom (i.e., know it exists)
and they feel capable of enacting it. Moreover,
freedoms are subjective (Brehm & Brehm,
1981): if people think they have the freedom to
do something and feel they can enact it, then
that freedom exists (e.g., Wicklund & Brehm,
Elimination and threats to freedom. The
second core component of PRT comes from the
assumption that freedom restriction is aversive
(Brehm, 1966) and creates a motivation to re-
store the lost freedom (i.e., psychological reac-
tance). Anything that completely blocks people
from performing a behavior or holding a certain
position constitutes elimination of freedom
(e.g., outright bans; Mazis, Settle, & Leslie,
1973). Additionally, anything that impedes, but
does not eliminate, freedom is a threat (e.g.,
attempted social influence; Brehm, 1966). As an
interesting caveat, people may interpret acts that
are typically beneficial as threats to their free-
dom to act as they choose. For instance, Krish-
nan and Carment (1979) found that having a
confederate help participants on a task pres-
sured them to return the favor, which aroused
reactance by threatening their freedom to help
or not (for similar results see Nemeth, 1970).
Arousal of reactance. Two broad factors
determine how much reactance people will feel
from a given threat: characteristics of the free-
dom and of the threat itself (Brehm, 1966).
Characteristics of the freedom. Brehm
and Brehm (1981) suggested that the proportion
of behaviors threatened and the importance of
the threatened freedom would determine the
amount of reactance a threat arouses. Despite
initial backing (e.g., Wicklund, Slattum, & Sol-
omon, 1970), few subsequent studies have ex-
amined the prediction that the greater the pro-
portion and number of freedoms threatened, the
more reactance arousal (for an unsupportive
exception see Grabitz-Gniech, Auslitz, & Gra-
bitz, 1975). Brehm (1966) also stated when
people perceive a given freedom is uniquely
able to fulfill a need, a threat to that freedom
will arouse greater reactance than when other
freedoms may also fulfill the same need. How-
ever, research has rarely examined this proposal
(for a supportive exception see Goldman &
Wallis, 1979).
Characteristics of the threat. Brehm
(1966) postulated a direct relationship between
the severity of a threat and the amount of reac-
tance aroused—more severe threats lead to
greater reactance. Early empirical backing for
this idea came from Heilman (1976), who found
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that more intense social influence attempts in-
stigated greater oppositional behavior than less
intense attempts (for similar results see Rains &
Turner, 2007). These and numerous other stud-
ies indicate that in a range of situations, threats
of high magnitude arouse greater reactance than
threats of lower magnitude (e.g., Organ, 1974).
Additionally, people’s perception that a
threatening agent is explicitly trying to persuade
them will increase reactance arousal (Brehm,
1966). In one study, Heller, Pallak, and Picek
(1973) manipulated a confederate’s intent to
influence participants’ attitudes toward a nu-
clear power plant; results suggested that com-
pared with low-intent confederates, high-intent
confederates caused participants to strongly op-
pose the advocated position (for similar results
see Jones & Brehm, 1970). A meta-analysis by
Benoit (1998) confirmed this result, showing
that forewarning of a message’s persuasive in-
tent decreased postmessage attitude change.
As a final means of reactance arousal, Brehm
(1966) hypothesized threats did not have to be
directed at people to induce reactance and the
accompanying efforts to restore freedom. An-
dreoli, Worchel, and Folger (1974) presented
evidence for reactance due to an “implied
threat” (p. 765), showing that simply listening
to a threat to someone else’s freedom was suf-
ficient to change people’s ratings of a conver-
sation topic because they anticipated losing
their own freedom to choose a topic in the
future (for similar results see Pallak & Heller,
1971). More recent evidence shows that simply
observing or reading about a threat to another
person’s freedom arouses a mix of threat and
negative emotions (i.e., vicarious reactance; Sit-
tenthaler, Traut-Mattausch, & Jonas, 2015). In a
related development, Sittenthaler, Jonas, and
Traut-Mattausch (2016) suggested that the pro-
cesses underlying vicarious- and self-reactance
processes are distinct: restricting people’s free-
dom resulted in an immediate spike in physio-
logical data, whereas vicarious reactance de-
layed this increase (for review see Steindl,
Jonas, Sittenthaler, et al., 2015).
Restoration of freedom: Behavioral
outcomes. After people experience elimina-
tion or threat to freedom, reactance manifests in
two main ways (Brehm & Brehm, 1981). The
most straightforward form of reactance involves
engaging in the restricted behavior (i.e., boo-
merang effect; Brehm, 1966). For instance,
when the drinking age increased from 18 to 21,
newly underage college students (i.e., whose
freedom to drink was now restricted) drank
more than adult students (Engs & Hanson,
1989)—a pattern in contrast to 30 years of prior
research. When people are unable to engage in
the restricted behavior, they can reestablish
freedom by social implication (e.g., seeing
someone else engage in a similar behavior;
Brehm & Brehm, 1981).
Restoration of freedom: Subjective
outcomes. In addition to these behavioral out-
comes, there are a host of subjective responses
people exhibit when they experience reactance.
For one, when people’s freedom is threatened,
their desire for the threatened behavior in-
creases, as does its attractiveness (Brehm &
Rozen, 1971; Brehm, Stires, Sensenig, & Sha-
ban, 1966). People can also reduce the discom-
fort associated with reactance by showing hos-
tility toward (e.g., Nezlek & Brehm, 1975), or
derogating (e.g., Rains, 2013), the source of a
When reactance reduction fails. In addi-
tion to these methods of reactance reduction,
there are times when people try but ultimately
fail to reduce reactance (Brehm & Brehm,
1981). When this happens, reactance arousal
may cease, and people may also begin to feel a
sense of lost control or surrender Wortman and
Brehm (1975). This theorizing drew mostly on
the idea of learned helplessness (Seligman,
1975), wherein people acknowledge that a
threat to freedom exists, but accept their inabil-
ity to overcome the threat and reestablish free-
dom. Mikulincer (1988) tested the relationship
between difficulty of restoration and the persis-
tence of reactance effects, showing that when
people perceive freedom restoration as moder-
ately difficult, they are motivated to seek resto-
ration. If, on the other hand, people realize
restoring freedom is impossible, their motiva-
tion to restore it will be low (for similar results
see Baum & Gatchel, 1981).
In a related development, scholars began to
consider the ways in which various personality
traits affect reactance arousal (e.g., locus of
control; Rotter, 1966). For instance, Rhodewalt
and Marcroft (1988) showed that people with
Type A personality (i.e., extreme achievement
striving, time urgency) showed considerable re-
actance when a behavioral freedom was
blocked, whereas Type Bs (i.e., enjoy achieve-
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ment, less hostile, work steadily) did not expe-
rience reactance. This and other similar results
(for review see Brehm & Brehm, 1981) indicated
a broader moderator of reactance arousal—
perceived ability to cope with a threat to free-
dom. This analysis aligns with work by Lazarus
and Folkman (1984; for review see Folkman,
Lazarus, Dunkel-Schetter, DeLongis, & Gruen,
2000), which suggests that people engage in
two processes (i.e., primary and secondary ap-
praisal) that allow them to decide if a situation
is threatening (i.e., may lead to harm or loss) or
challenging (i.e., may lead to mastery or benefit;
for a similar analysis see Brehm & Self, 1989).
Wave 2: Contributions From
Clinical Psychology
With the preponderance of evidence support-
ing PRT, Brehm and Brehm (1981) helped
prompt Wave 2 of PRT scholarship by noting
that the construct of psychological reactance
had considerable potential in clinical psychol-
ogy (also see S. S. Brehm, 1976). One outcome
of the expansion of reactance into clinical psy-
chology was that scholars reconceptualized it as
a trait (for review see Shoham, Trost, &
Rohrbaugh, 2004), instead of Brehm’s (1966)
momentary state variable. As Kelly and Nauta
(1997) stated, trait reactance is the “consistent
tendency to perceive and react to situations as if
one’s freedoms were being threatened” (p.
1124). Put differently, based on differing levels
of trait reactance, people may be more or less
inclined to experience the same stimuli as a
freedom threat. Guided by this thinking, clini-
cians delineated three interrelated approaches to
addressing and understanding client reactance.
Perspectives on Reactance in
Clinical Psychology
Reactance as a moderator. The first ap-
proach indicates that trait reactance moderates
therapeutic success (for review see Shoham et
al., 2004). When clients perceive therapists’
recommendations as threatening their freedom,
they become inclined to resist influence—thus
undermining therapeutic effectiveness (e.g.,
Tracey, Ellickson, & Sherry, 1989). For in-
stance, in a study on procrastination and test
anxiety, regardless of type of treatment re-
ceived, patients high in trait reactance showed
less satisfaction and expectation of change than
those low in reactance (Dowd et al., 1988).
Moreover, patients higher in reactance prone-
ness tend to show decreased compliance with
therapy (e.g., Seibel & Dowd, 1999), antide-
pressant treatment (e.g., De las Cuevas, Peñate,
& Sanz, 2014), and medical recommendations
(e.g., Fogarty, 1997). Overall, patients high in
trait reactance face worse prognoses than those
who are less reactant (Beutler, Moleiro, &
Talebi, 2002; for discussion see Cautilli, Riley-
Tillman, Axelrod, & Hineline, 2005).
Overcoming reactance in therapy. A sec-
ond approach among clinicians has focused on
avoiding the negative outcomes outlined above.
On one end of this continuum, researchers seek
to prevent reactance arousal, and to enhance
therapeutic effectiveness, by offering clients
free choice in therapy (e.g., Beutler, 1979).
Studies using this technique have been gener-
ally supportive (e.g., Devine & Fernald, 1973).
For instance, students given a choice in treat-
ment reported greater perceived value and re-
laxation than those assigned to a specific treat-
ment (Gordon, 1976). Instead of circumventing
reactance, an additional method encourages its
arousal (for discussion see Tennen, Press,
Rohrbaugh, & White, 1981), using paradoxical
interventions (i.e., those that encourage symp-
tomatic behavior; see Dowd & Swoboda, 1984)
to induce client change. However, a number of
empirical studies (e.g., Swoboda, Dowd, &
Wise, 1990), meta-analyses (e.g., Shoham-
Salomon & Rosenthal, 1987), and literature re-
views (e.g., DeBord, 1989) indicate the incon-
sistent influence of paradoxical interventions on
client outcomes.
Reactance as a tailoring variable. A third
approach combined the above two ideas to sug-
gest that because reactance proneness moder-
ates therapeutic success, considering clients’
level of trait reactance allows therapists to tailor
intervention strategies (e.g., Beutler, 1979).
Specifically, Dowd and Seibel (1990) suggested
that for clients low in trait reactance, therapy
should aim to increase autonomy and decision-
making capabilities. Conversely, for clients
who exhibit high trait reactance, therapists
should focus on presenting themselves as ac-
cepting facilitators, even using humor to note
clients’ tendency toward reactance. For in-
stance, Karno, Longabaugh, and Herbeck
(2010) reported that the extent of structure (e.g.,
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instructions) that therapists offered interacted
with trait reactance to predict treatment success
for alcoholism. When patients were high in re-
actance proneness, less structured therapists
prompted greater use of prorecovery language;
for patients low in trait reactance, the converse
was true (for similar results see Arnold &
Vakhrusheva, 2016). This research shows that
matching self-directed treatments with patients
who exhibit reactance increases effectiveness
(for review see Beutler et al., 2002).
Debate Over Trait Reactance
Despite the development of literatures dedi-
cated to examining the role of trait reactance in
clinical settings, some scholars have questioned
its use and construct validity (e.g., Miron &
Brehm, 2006). Shoham et al. (2004) initiated
this pushback, stating that the literature is un-
clear on whether researchers can usefully con-
ceptualize reactance as a trait because, “(a) Re-
actance may not be a stable trait, and (b) what is
currently measured as a trait may not reflect the
construct of reactance” (p. 182). These authors
argued clinicians could still benefit from apply-
ing principles of reactance— but it should be as
a motivational state. In a similar vein, Silvia
(2006) suggested that any evidence for the va-
lidity of trait reactance was indirect, as re-
searchers had not assessed its relation to state
reactance. In testing this idea, Silvia found that
a pushy, high threat message was most persua-
sive to people who scored high, not low, on the
Hong Psychological Reactance Scale (HPRS;
Hong & Page, 1989). People who should have
disliked the reactance-inducing message the
most (i.e., those high in trait reactance) instead
disliked it the least. Similarly, as we discuss in
Wave 4, studies indicate some issues with va-
lidity of common trait reactance measures (e.g.,
Buboltz, Thomas, & Donnell, 2002). As an ad-
ditional criticism, Miron and Brehm (2006)
noted that because items on trait scales appear
to measure affect, and their explanatory power
is low, “there is little to gain from the concep-
tualization of reactance as a personality trait”
(p. 7).
Future Directions for PRT in
Clinical Psychology
Research applying PRT to clinical settings
has clearly been fruitful, as the various perspec-
tives in Wave 2 attest (for review see Beutler,
Harwood, Michelson, Song, & Holman, 2011).
However, to allow the field to reach its full
potential, scholars must resolve two interrelated
issues. For one, research should address the
psychometric instability of the prominent trait
reactance measures, which we discuss in Wave
4 (e.g., Thomas, Donnell, & Buboltz, 2001).
Once a valid measure of trait reactance is de-
rived, researchers can determine the utility of
the construct. One possibility is that trait reac-
tance is indeed a useful construct, but that mea-
surement challenges have hindered scholars
from elucidating its true utility. Another possi-
bility is that researchers should move their focus
away from trait reactance, and toward traits that
lead people to be more likely to become reac-
tant. For example, Type A personalities react
differently to freedom threats than Type Bs
(e.g., Rhodewalt & Marcroft, 1988); sensation
seeking also moderates reactance arousal
(Quick & Stephenson, 2008). Clinical research-
ers should consider these other traits, particu-
larly until they resolve the measurement issue.
This combination— determining ways to val-
idly measure trait reactance and focusing on
other personality traits associated with it—
could stabilize findings and open the field up for
continued clinical research.
An additional possibility for future research
in this domain comes from communication re-
search: as we detail in Wave 3, studies have
revealed the types of messages that arouse (e.g.,
controlling) and diminish (e.g., autonomy-
supportive) reactance. Building on these find-
ings, clinicians could consider the influence of
their communication style on patient reactance.
For instance, as Beutler et al. (2002) noted in
their review, nondirective interventions that fo-
cus on relationship-building (vs. direct behav-
ioral recommendations) are more effective for
clients high in trait reactance. Research and
theorizing using a motivational perspective
(Wave 5) also has implications for clinical
scholarship. Even though scholars have consid-
ered the role of trait characteristics in therapeu-
tic resistance, clients’ current state of mind
likely also interacts with therapist intervention
style to predict treatment outcomes. As an ex-
ample, Lienemann and Siegel (2016) showed
that people with heightened depressive symp-
tomatology were reactant to all communica-
tions, not just controlling ones.
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Wave 3: Contributions From
Communication Research
Concurrent to Wave 2, scholars began to uti-
lize the explanatory power of PRT in other
domains, most notably communication research
(for review see Quick et al., 2013). A seminal
paper in this line of work came from Bensley
and Wu (1991), who experimentally examined
college students’ reactions to high- and low-
threat antidrinking messages. This scholarship
led communication scholars to undertake fruit-
ful programs of research on the message fea-
tures that increase (e.g., controlling language;
Buller, Borland, & Burgoon, 1998) and de-
crease (e.g., narrative; Moyer-Gusé, 2008)
arousal of reactance.
Controlling and Autonomy-Supportive
In line with Brehm’s (1966) original sugges-
tion that threatening communication will arouse
reactance, communication scholars have exam-
ined the effects of controlling message features
on reactance processes (e.g., Grandpre, Alvaro,
Burgoon, Miller, & Hall, 2003; Quick & Kim,
2009). These studies typically contrast two
types of messages: controlling (e.g., “must,”
“ought,” “should”; Miller, Lane, Deatrick,
Young, & Potts, 2007, p. 223) and autonomy-
supportive (e.g., “perhaps,” “possibly,” “may-
be”; Miller et al., 2007, p. 223). As noted, in one
of the first studies to manipulate message di-
rectness, Bensley and Wu (1991) tested the ef-
fectiveness of high- and low-threat messages in
reducing college students’ alcohol consump-
tion. The authors found that high-threat mes-
sages aroused more reactance than low-threat
messages across two experiments: participants
exposed to the high-threat messages drank more
than those who saw the low-threat messages
(i.e., a boomerang effect; Brehm, 1966).
This paradigm, where scholars test the effec-
tiveness of high- and low-threat communica-
tions, is the standard for testing PRT in com-
munication research (for review see Burgoon,
Alvaro, Grandpre, & Voulodakis, 2002). Using
this approach, scholars have replicated this pat-
tern of results many times, showing that con-
trolling communications arouse reactance in a
variety of contexts, such as health (e.g., Crano,
Alvaro, Tan, & Siegel, 2017) and consumer
behavior (e.g., Zemack-Rugar, Moore, & Fitz-
simons, 2017).
Other Message Features Affecting
Reactance Arousal
Once researchers established that strongly
worded messages would consistently arouse re-
actance, they turned to features that could re-
duce reactance (for review see Quick et al.,
Restoration postscripts. One strategy for
allaying the reactance that people experience
from persuasive messages is to include a re-
minder of their freedom to choose at the end of
the communication (i.e., a postscript; Brehm &
Brehm, 1981). For instance, Bessarabova, Fink,
and Turner (2013) randomly assigned partici-
pants to receive a postscript (i.e., “The choice is
yours. You’re free to decide for yourself,” p.
347) or no postscript. As predicted, the restora-
tion postscript mitigated reactance for partici-
pants who read the high-threat message but not
the low-threat message (for similar results see
Kirchler, 1999). These data indicate that mes-
sage designers can reap the benefits of direct
messages (e.g., clarity; Miller et al., 2007) while
avoiding the pitfalls of reactance (e.g., source
derogation; Rains, 2013).
Message novelty. The degree to which
people perceive a message is novel has been
equated with decreased reactance arousal and
increased message effectiveness (e.g., Kang,
Cappella, & Fishbein, 2006). Palmgreen et al.
(1991) first proffered the construct of message
sensation value to describe media that draws
attention of targets to persuasive communica-
tion; they defined it as, “the degree to which
formal and content audio-visual features of a
message elicit sensory, affective, and arousal
responses” (p. 219). According to Morgan,
Palmgreen, Stephenson, Hoyle, and Lorch
(2003), this construct is useful because commu-
nications that are high in sensation value draw
attention away from controlling aspects of a
message. In a study supporting this theorizing,
Quick (2013) showed that when adolescents
perceived messages as highly novel, they re-
ported decreased perceptions of freedom threat.
Narrative. Similar to message novelty, re-
search has also shown that using narratives in
persuasive messaging can reduce reactance ef-
fects and increase persuasive effectiveness
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(Quick et al., 2013). In one study, Moyer-Gusé
and Nabi (2010) examined how features of a
story (e.g., narrative transportation; Green &
Brock, 2000) could mitigate resistance to per-
suasion. Communications that included narra-
tive presented issues of teen pregnancy in the
context of a popular dramatic TV show, while
control messages appeared as a news broadcast.
Narrative increased participants’ identification
with story characters and decreased perceptions
of persuasive intent; as a result, reactance de-
creased and safe sex intentions increased.
Empathy. Another reactance reduction
strategy involves inhibiting people’s anger and
counterargumentation by using message content
to arouse empathy in the audience (e.g., Shen,
2010, 2011). The idea is that if people feel
empathy toward characters in a message, they
may come to identify with the characters; in
turn, they perceive a message the characters
deliver as less threatening than if they did not
identify with the characters. In one study, Shen
(2010) used a quasi-experimental design that
included five antismoking or antidrinking mes-
sages that participants rated on the amount of
empathy they induced. Results indicated that
state empathy reduced reactance, and in turn,
indirectly affected persuasive effectiveness of
the advertisement.
Inoculation and reactance. Recent re-
search has examined two distinct ways in which
inoculating (i.e., forewarning; McGuire, 1961)
people to the possibility of a forthcoming threat
can increase or decrease reactance arousal (e.g.,
Richards, Banas, & Magid, 2017). In one ap-
proach, Miller et al. (2013) randomly assigned
participants to view an inoculation message in-
tended to arouse reactance, a traditional inocu-
lation message, or a no-inoculation control prior
to exposing them to a persuasive message ad-
dressing one of four issues (e.g., legalization of
marijuana). Forewarning participants with a re-
actance-inducing message enhanced their sub-
sequent reactance to a controlling message, en-
abling them to resist persuasive influence over
two weeks later. In a complementary investiga-
tion, Richards and Banas (2015) theorized that
exposing participants to a premessage warning
noting that they might experience reactance
(i.e., inoculating them) would decrease reac-
tance to an ensuing target message, resulting in
increased persuasion. These authors presented
participants either with an inoculation message
or no message; they then saw a brochure detail-
ing the ills of college binge drinking. As pre-
dicted, the inoculation premessage decreased
perceived threat and reactance to the brochure,
and indirectly affected participants’ intentions
to binge drink (also see Richards et al., 2017).
Reactance as persuasive strategy. Rather
than reducing reactance, theorizing and research
indicates that campaigners can use its arousal as
an advantageous persuasive strategy (e.g.,
Turner, 2007). For instance, the recent “truth”
antitobacco campaign in Florida presented cig-
arettes as an overweight, dirty bully who tries to
control adolescents’ behavior (Zucker et al.,
2000). This approach turns the tables, as reac-
tance against the message in this case would
include not smoking, a clearly desirable out-
come. Indeed, evaluations of this campaign
have been favorable (e.g., Sly, Hopkins,
Trapido, & Ray, 2001), illustrating the utility of
this approach (for a similar discussion see Far-
relly et al., 2002). Other evidence supports the
idea that reactance arousal can be favorable, as
Quick, Bates, and Quinlan (2009) posited that
because secondhand smoke threatens people’s
freedom to breathe clean air, their anger could
prompt a desirable behavior (e.g., activism
against smoking). Results indicated that anger
with secondhand smoke was positively associ-
ated with reactance and, in turn, with attitudes
toward clean indoor air policies.
Future Directions for PRT in
Communication Research
Communication research has been a driving
force in PRT research for 35 years (for review
see Quick et al., 2013). These scholars are well-
positioned to continue pushing the theory for-
ward, including answering fundamental ques-
tions about PRT that remain open. For instance,
scholars can use the controlling message exper-
imental paradigm (for review see Burgoon et
al., 2002) to examine Brehm’s (1966) rarely
assessed proposition that the greater the propor-
tion and number of freedoms threatened, the
greater reactance arousal. In addition, a great
deal of communication research has to do with
interpersonal communication—a potential as-
pect of reactance arousal that has received lim-
ited attention (e.g., Sinclair, Felmlee, Sprecher,
& Wright, 2015). Scholars could examine the
interpersonal nonverbal cues (for review see
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Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010) that are
associated with reactance arousal. Further, com-
munication scholars can bring new approaches
to the counseling domain, such as revealing
reactance amelioration strategies that clinical
research has rarely considered (e.g., use of nar-
ratives; Green & Brock, 2000). Just as commu-
nication can bring new perspectives to the clin-
ical research, considering the state-level
motivational variables described in Wave 5
(e.g., uncertainty; Rosenberg & Siegel, 2017b)
could lead to new insights in message develop-
Wave 4: Measuring Reactance
As communication research based on PRT
expanded, many of these same scholars (e.g.,
Dillard & Shen, 2005) began to address one of
the principal criticisms of PRT—that state psy-
chological reactance is immeasurable (Brehm,
1966; Brehm & Brehm, 1981). In line with
Brehm’s assertion, early research on PRT did
not measure reactance directly, instead assess-
ing the outcomes associated with reactance
arousal, such as boomerang effects (e.g.,
Worchel & Brehm, 1970) and increased attrac-
tiveness of the eliminated freedom (e.g., Brehm
& Rozen, 1971). Even though clinicians began
measuring trait reactance over 30 years ago
(e.g., Merz, 1983), with both self-report (e.g.,
Hong & Page, 1989) and observational (e.g.,
Shoham-Salomon, Avner, & Neeman, 1989)
techniques, few studies attempted to measure
state reactance directly (e.g., Lindsey, 2005).
However, in the past 15 years, there has been a
renewed focus across several domains to pro-
pose self-report scales (e.g., Dillard & Shen,
2005) and a physiological measure (Sittentha-
ler, Steindl, & Jonas, 2015) to directly assess
state reactance arousal.
Measuring Trait Reactance
Self-report measures. Scholars’ reimagin-
ing of reactance as a trait led to three prominent
measures (Shen & Dillard, 2007): The Ques-
tionnaire for Measuring Psychological Reac-
tance (QMPR; Merz, 1983), the Therapeutic
Reactance Scale (TRS; Dowd, Milne, & Wise,
1991), and the HPRS (Hong & Page, 1989).
Questionnaire for Measuring Psychologi-
cal Reactance. The initial measure of trait
reactance, the QMPR, came from Merz (1983).
Noting that there were limited experimental as-
sessments of PRT in the literature, Merz devel-
oped 32 initial items based on constructs like
resistance and defiance; he then submitted these
items to expert raters for evaluation. The result-
ing 18-item QMPR included statements such as,
“Regulations and duties trigger a sense of resis-
tance in me” and “I react strongly when some-
one tries to restrict my personal freedom of
choice.” There are limited data on the validity
of the QMPR, but a review by Shen and Dillard
(2007) suggested the scale has some face and
content validity. Subsequent evaluations of the
factor structure of the QMPR (e.g., Hong &
Ostini, 1989; Tucker & Byers, 1987) indicated
that in its original form, the QMPR lacked ad-
equate psychometric properties to warrant con-
tinued use. Some of the difficulty in validating
the QMPR could have had to do with transla-
tion, as the original Merz (1983) version was in
German (Tucker & Byers, 1987).
Therapeutic Reactance Scale. Due to the
limitations of the Merz (1983) scale, Dowd et
al. (1991) created the 28-item TRS to assess
trait reactance. With the goal of creating a user-
friendly self-report scale, these authors based an
initial pool of 112 items on Brehm’s (1966)
description of reactance. Using item and factor
analysis on data from 163 participants, the TRS
was reduced to its final 28-item form (e.g., “I
resent authority figures who tell me what to
do”). Data from Dowd et al. (1991) and subse-
quent follow-up studies supported the conver-
gent and divergent validity of the TRS, as it was
correlated with measures of locus of control and
the K scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Per-
sonality Inventory (MMPI); it was not corre-
lated with measures of counselor social influ-
ence or anxiety. However, following a series of
factor analyses showing that the TRS is unidi-
mensional, Buboltz et al. (2002) argued that
because the construct of reactance is multidi-
mensional, “continued use in its current form
should be undertaken with caution” (Buboltz et
al., 2002, p. 124).
Hong Psychological Reactance Scale.
Similar to the TRS, the motivation of Hong and
Page (1989) in creating the HPRS had to do
with the psychometric deficits of the Merz
(1983) scale. Over several iterations, Hong et al.
(e.g., Hong, 1992; Hong & Faedda, 1996) de-
veloped an 11-item scale comprised of four
factors: emotional response to restricted choice,
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reactance to compliance, resisting influence
from others, and reactance to advice and rec-
ommendations. Sample items from the HPRS
include, “I become frustrated when I am unable
to make free and independent decisions” and
“Regulations trigger a sense of resistance in
me.” Studies attest to the validity of the HPRS
as an indicator of trait reactance, including pos-
itive correlations with measures of trait anger
and depression and no relationship with a mea-
sure of self-esteem (Hong & Faedda, 1996).
Despite this support, a confirmatory factor anal-
ysis by Thomas et al. (2001) revealed similar
flaws to the TRS: “without a major revision of
the HPRS, practitioners would be well advised
to discontinue its use” (p. 11).
Observational measure. A non-self-report
measure came from Shoham-Salomon et al.
(1989), who used patients’ tone of voice as an
indicator of trait reactance. Specifically, these
authors filtered out the content of patients’ re-
sponses to questions about the controllability of
their procrastination problems; four raters then
coded the responses on a series of scales from
spiteful-nonspiteful,uninhibited-inhibited, and
active-passive. The result was a composite
score, on which patients whose tone was spite-
ful, uninhibited, and active were considered
highly reactant. The voice measure was corre-
lated with several self-report questions, indicat-
ing its initial construct validity. However, Sho-
ham, Bootzin, Rohrbaugh, and Urry (1996)
adapted this measure for a study of reactance
among insomniacs, finding mixed evidence for
its validity. Although limited research has con-
tinued to use this measure (e.g., Levesque, Ve-
licer, Castle, & Greene, 2008), it helped set the
stage for later direct assessment of reactance
using techniques other than self-report (e.g.,
physiological measures; Sittenthaler, Steindl, et
al., 2015).
Measuring State Reactance
Self-report measures. There are three pri-
marily used, validated self-report measures of
reactance in the literature: the widely used in-
tertwined model (Dillard & Shen, 2005) as well
as two more recent scales, the Salzburg State
Reactance Scale (SSR Scale; Sittenthaler,
Traut-Mattausch, Steindl, & Jonas, 2015) and
the Reactance to Health Warnings Scale
(RHWS; Hall et al., 2016). Even though other
self-report measures of state reactance exist in
the literature (e.g., Norman & Wrona-Clarke,
2016), they have generally been one-off assess-
ments that were not subsequently validated. For
instance, Lindsey (2005) created a four-item
measure based on the HPRS (Hong & Faedda,
1996), but despite its potential utility, it was not
developed further (Quick et al., 2013).
The intertwined model. The first in-depth
attempt to measure state reactance using a self-
report scale came from Dillard and Shen (2005),
who suggested that the immeasurable nature of
reactance was limiting scholars’ ability to fully
study PRT. Using prior literature as a guide, the
authors outlined four possibilities for directly
measuring reactance: (a) purely cognitive (e.g.,
Kelly & Nauta, 1997); (b) purely negative
emotion/affect (e.g., Dillard & Meijnders,
2002); (c) a combination of negative affect and
cognition, with each as a separate component
(e.g., Dillard & Peck, 2000); or (d) a combina-
tion of negative affect and cognition, with the
components intertwined. Dillard and Shen
(2005) conducted two studies to empirically
determine which of the four models fit the data
best. In each study, participants read one of two
versions of a persuasive message, varied on
strength of threat; the authors then measured
their cognitive responses using a thought-listing
procedure and their negative affect with a
4-item anger scale. The results of both studies
supported the intertwined model (i.e., an entan-
gled combination of negative affect and cogni-
tion): a combination of anger and negative cog-
nition fully mediated the effect of threat on
attitude and behavioral intention. A comparison
of measures (Quick, 2012) and a meta-analysis
(Rains, 2013) provided additional support for
the intertwined model.
Salzburg State Reactance Scale. Despite
consistent support and continued use (e.g., Kim,
Levine, & Allen, 2013), Sittenthaler, Traut-
Mattausch, Steindl, et al. (2015) suggested that
Dillard and Shen’s (2005) measure has a few
limitations—namely, that researchers have
rarely tested it outside of persuasion and mes-
saging studies or with nonstudent samples. As
such, these authors sought to determine whether
the intertwined measure would accurately as-
sess reactance arousal in, “all domains where a
freedom threat is present” (p. 258). Based on
these constraints, Sittenthaler, Traut-Mattausch,
Steindl, et al. (2015) proposed the SSR Scale;
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guided by earlier research (e.g., Jonas et al.,
2009), it uses 10 items to measure emotional
experience, negative attitudes, and aggressive
behavioral intentions in response to a threaten-
ing situation.
Across three studies, Sittenthaler, Traut-
Mattausch, Steindl, et al. (2015) presented par-
ticipants with one of three imagined scenarios
meant to arouse reactance: (a) a student attempt-
ing to rent an apartment; (b) an employee hav-
ing an oft-used coffeemaker removed; or (c) A
bouncer not allowing the participant into a de-
sirable club. The data indicated that 10 items
best fit the three-factor solution assessing peo-
ple’s experience of reactance, negative atti-
tudes, and aggressive behavioral intentions
(e.g., “Would you like to ruin his reputation by
publishing a negative review on a relevant In-
ternet site?”). Results indicated that the SRS
Scale has a high degree of internal consistency
and correlated well with other measures of state
reactance (e.g., Lindsey, 2005). The SSR
Scale’s relationship with a measure of anger
(Dillard & Shen, 2005), which is a core com-
ponent of reactance, provided additional evi-
dence of its validity.
Reactance to Health Warnings Scale. A
final self-report measure, the Reactance to
Health Warnings Scale (RHWS), comes from
Hall et al. (2016, 2017), who sought to build on
Dillard and Shen’s (2005) intertwined model
with a measure of reactance specific to people’s
reactions to health messages. To this end, Hall
et al. derived three dimensions of reactance to
health warnings (i.e., anger, perceived threat,
and counterarguing the warning) from the liter-
ature, and from which they developed 87 initial
items. Factor analyses revealed a nine-factor
solution, each with three items: anger, self-
relevance, common knowledge, exaggeration,
government, manipulation, personal attack, der-
ogation, and discounting. Despite correlational
and experimental support, Hall et al. (2017)
worried the length of the 27-item RHWS was
impractical for researchers. As a result, these
scholars used item-response theory to create the
Brief RHWS (BRHWS), a three-item measure
of people’s reactions to health warnings (e.g.,
“This warning is trying to manipulate me”).
Results from two studies indicated good inter-
nal consistency and test–retest reliability as well
as convergent and predictive validity.
Physiological measurement of reactance.
Although Brehm (1966) noted that physiologi-
cal arousal accompanied psychological reac-
tance, few researchers have measured the moti-
vational state in this way (e.g., Baum, Fleming,
& Reddy, 1986). However, guided by Wright’s
(2008) suggestion that cardiovascular activity
varies with effort to achieve a goal, Sittenthaler,
Steindl, et al. (2015) recently tested a physio-
logical measure of reactance arousal. Using this
same reasoning, these authors suggested that
variations in cardiovascular activity could cap-
ture the motivational intensity (Brehm & Self,
1989) associated with people’s responses to
freedom threats. To indirectly test this idea,
these authors examined differences in physio-
logical arousal between people who were sub-
ject to illegitimate or legitimate freedom restric-
tions. Results indicated that when faced with an
illegitimate freedom threat, people experienced
an immediate increase in heart rate; conversely,
legitimate restrictions resulted in a delayed
jump in heart rate. Simply, reactance responses
are characterized by both an immediate, physi-
ological component as well as a slower, more
cognitive component.
Future Directions for Measurement
of Reactance
With these three self-report scales (i.e., inter-
twined model, SSR Scale, RHWS) and a phys-
iological measure (Sittenthaler, Steindl, et al.,
2015), scholars have made considerable prog-
ress in directly measuring reactance. Despite
encouraging evidence for the SSR Scale and
RHWS/BRHWS, we have concerns about the
construct validity of each. In particular, items in
both scales seem to assess antecedents (e.g.,
threat to freedom) of reactance, instead of reac-
tance itself. Owing to these trepidations, and
due to consistent support for the intertwined
measure (e.g., Quick, 2012), we agree with
Rains’ (2013) assessment: researchers should
continue measuring reactance as a combination
of anger and negative cognitions. Nevertheless,
scholars should continue to refine all three self-
report measures—for instance, showing that re-
actance and other negative motivational states
are distinct (for a discussion see Brehm, 1966).
Frustration or another negative motivational
state could result in anger and negative cogni-
tions (Lewin, 1959), so as a complement to
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assessments of construct validity (e.g., Quick,
2012), scholars should evaluate the intertwined
model’s discriminant validity. Scholars should
also continue to develop physiological mea-
sures of reactance arousal (Sittenthaler, Steindl,
et al., 2015), with a potential path forward in
further assessment of the dual-process approach
that these authors proposed.
Wave 5: Return to Motivation
From its inception, Brehm (1966) was clear
that reactance is a motivational construct: “. . .
reactance is defined not simply as an unpleasant
tension...butrather a motivational state with
a specific direction, namely, the recovery of
freedom.” (p. 11, italics original). Despite these
descriptions, the centrality of motivation to PRT
remained relatively dormant until Miron and
Brehm (2006) placed it alongside other theories
with distinct motivational bents (e.g., energiza-
tion model of motivation, Brehm & Self, 1989).
This suggestion prompted a range of similar
perspectives Wright, Agtarap, and Mlynski
(2015), as Steindl, Jonas, Sittenthaler et al.
(2015) devoted a section of their review to
Reactance as Motivation, and Leander et al.
(2016) discussed PRT in the context of self-
determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000),
among other motivational frameworks.
With the centrality of motivation to PRT in
mind, we offer three ways in which scholars can
maximize PRT’s potential to flourish: (a) fac-
tors that affect the desirability of freedom res-
toration (e.g., uncertainty; Hogg, 2007) and
people’s perceptions of freedom threats (e.g.,
depressive symptomatology; Lienemann & Sie-
gel, 2016), (b) catalysts of reactance beyond
freedom threats (e.g., group categorization; Mi-
ron & Brehm, 2006), and (c) outcomes of reac-
tance beyond anger, negative cognitions, and
boomerang effects (e.g., goal shielding, the cog-
nitive inhibition of nonfocal goals; Shah, Fried-
man, & Kruglanski, 2002). Given the forward-
looking nature woven through Wave 5, we omit
a formal Future Directions in this section.
Factors Affecting Perceptions of Freedom
Threats and Freedom Restoration
Although scholars have long discussed indi-
vidual difference variables as influencing reac-
tance processes (for review see Brehm &
Brehm, 1981), they have only recently begun to
examine states of mind that impact people’s
reactions to freedom threats (e.g., empathy;
Shen, 2010). In line, a first direction for contin-
ued research is to expand this examination of
the moderating role of different states of mind
on reactance processes. In one set of studies,
Rosenberg and Siegel (2017b) examined the
influence of uncertainty on the extent to which
people want to restore their freedom once they
perceive it is under siege. These authors primed
participants to feel uncertain and vulnerable or
certain and safe, and assessed their reactions to
two different freedom threats: a controlling (vs.
supportive) doctor (e.g., Burgoon et al., 1990)
and a controlling (vs. supportive) health mes-
sage (i.e., encouraging daily flossing; Dillard &
Shen, 2005). When participants were primed to
feel certain, their intentions to act counter to the
message were significantly greater when they
read the controlling (vs. supportive) message;
when primed to feel uncertain, intentions to act
counter to the message were the same, regard-
less of which message they read. That is, un-
certainty affected the extent to which, once free-
dom was threatened, people sought freedom
An additional consideration is whether peo-
ple’s state of mind affects their perceptions of
freedom threats in the first place. One possible
theoretical approach is to consider whether peo-
ple are experiencing a narrowing (e.g., Lewin,
1959) or broadening (e.g., Fredrickson, 2004)
of the mental field. Negative states typically
constrict people’s cognitive and behavioral op-
tions (Gable, Poole, & Harmon-Jones, 2015;
Lewin, 1959), whereas positive states have the
opposite effect, widening their cognitive and
behavioral options (Fredrickson, 2004). It could
be that when people are in a broadened state of
mind when they perceive a freedom threat, their
reactions will be diminished, including a de-
creased desire for freedom restoration. Con-
versely, when people are in a narrowed state
when they perceive a freedom threat, it will
augment their reactions, including a heightened
desire for freedom restoration.
In support of the idea that broadening mental
states reduce reactance arousal, Schüz, Schüz,
and Eid (2013) showed that having participants
self-affirm (Steele, 1988) before receiving a
high-threat skin cancer communication, which
should have aroused reactance and a consequent
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increase in sun exposure, instead decreased sun
exposure. A broadening of the mental field
could explain people’s diminished reactions to
freedom threats after self-affirming (Schüz et
al., 2013)—the affirmation served to widen
their latitude of what constitutes a freedom
threat. On the other hand, mental constriction
could explain people’s amplified reactions to
autonomy-supportive threats when experienc-
ing heightened depressive symptomatology
(Lienemann & Siegel, 2016)—negative biases
present in depression narrowed their latitude of
what constitutes a freedom threat. Providing
evidence that a narrowed mental field could
maximize the likelihood of reactance, these au-
thors reported that even though an autonomy
supportive health message caused less reactance
among people with low levels of depressive
symptomology than a direct one, those with
high levels of depressive symptomology were
equally reactant to both messages.
If being in a narrowed state maximizes the
likelihood of reactance, then another state that
would likely lead to increased reactance is
being in a state of reactance itself. Indeed,
Brehm and Brehm (1981) suggested that an
initial threat to people’s freedom could sen-
sitize them to the potential for additional,
later threats. Research has rarely assessed this
PRT proposition, but its logic aligns with
Coyne’s (1976) depressive spiral, which is a
self-fulfilling prophecy that adolescents with
depression often face: Constant reassurance-
seeking and other negative behaviors cause
their peers to withdraw from them, resulting
in a lost social network, and reinforcing their
prior beliefs that peers are uncaring, causing
their depression to worsen (e.g., Joiner &
Metalsky, 2001). Likewise, being in a state of
reactance could result in increased sensitivity
to freedom threats, which could lead to the
perception of freedom threats; in turn, people
could feel threatened, leading to even more
sensitization to further threats—a process Sie-
gel and Rosenberg (2017) dubbed the reactive
spiral. Guided by the general hypothesis that
people’s state of mind when they perceive a
freedom threat will influence reactance
arousal and diminishment, scholars can exam-
ine a range of narrowing (e.g., anger; Gable et
al., 2015) and broadening (e.g., elevation;
Thomson & Siegel, 2017) states on percep-
tion of freedom threats.
Expanding Catalysts of Reactance
A second area for continued PRT research is
to consider the experiences other than direct
threat or elimination of freedom that arouse
psychological reactance. Simply, people may
have experiences other than threats to valued
behaviors that lead to reactance and a conse-
quent desire to regain freedom. In outlining this
possibility, Miron and Brehm (2006) indicated
that group categorization could threaten peo-
ple’s freedom to identify or behave as they
please. Indeed, even positive categorizations
(e.g., “mother,” p. 9) can induce reactance if
people feel a stereotype limits their behavioral
freedom in a way that is important to them. This
suggestion aligns with early research by Wick-
lund (1974), which indicated discrimination
would cause reactance. More recent evidence in
support of this idea comes from Kray et al.
(2001), who suggested that threats to people’s
freedom to identify with the group of their
choosing can lead to the experience of reac-
tance. These authors reported that explicitly
activating gender stereotypes in a negotiation
context caused men and women to behave coun-
ter to these expectations.
Although this research shows that people can
experience reactance from explicit discrimina-
tion and stereotyping, a corollary is to examine
the implicit, subtler freedom threats that arouse
reactance. Early studies showed that making a
decision (e.g., Sullivan & Pallak, 1976) or pub-
licly committing to a position (e.g., Andreoli et
al., 1974) could arouse reactance. However, in
recent years, researchers have moved away
from these studies—the primary paradigm for
testing PRT now uses explicit verbal or written
threats (e.g., Dillard & Shen, 2005). Taking a
step back, it could be fruitful for the field to
reconsider these implicit threats, particularly the
litany of social phenomena that PRT could help
explain. For instance, Graupmann et al. (2012)
indicated that group categorization (i.e., ingroup
vs. outgroup) affects reactance arousal. These
findings indicate that talking about other social
groups may cause some people to feel threat-
ened—an implication that could be important
for diversity and inclusion training programs. It
is possible that the mere presence of an out-
group member (e.g., police) may make people
feel immediately threatened, and could explain
the consequent source derogation that often oc-
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curs. Scholars can examine these ideas to deter-
mine the specific circumstances in which inter-
group contact exacerbates or ameliorates
Expanding Outcomes of Reactance
An additional avenue for future research is to
consider the broad, pervasive effects that reac-
tance arousal is likely to have on people’s be-
haviors and cognitions. Given that reactance is a
negative motivational state, the effects of which
are often pervasive (e.g., Proulx, 2012), peo-
ple’s reactions to freedom threats are likely not
limited to certain behavioral or cognitive out-
comes. Instead, the motivational arousal of re-
actance likely catalyzes a host of goal-directed
cognitions and behaviors (for discussions see
Hart, 2014; Proulx, 2012). In support, recent
work, derived from the theorizing of Lewin
(1959) and Tolman (1932), outlined a suite of
outcomes associated with negative motivational
states (i.e., changes in ability, disposition, allo-
cation of resources, processing and perception,
and tactic; Rosenberg & Siegel, 2016). For ex-
ample, when experiencing a negative motiva-
tional state, people might exhibit reduced cre-
ativity, increased social dominance, and myopic
thinking; they may become hyperfocused on
relevant stimuli and take the most direct route
toward restoring freedom (Siegel, 2013; also
see Rosenberg, Lewandowski, & Siegel, 2015).
Aligned with this logic, it serves to reason
that as a negative motivational state, reactance
likely results in a range of goal-directed out-
comes. In a recent review, Steindl, Jonas, Sit-
tenthaler et al. (2015) presented parallel reason-
ing: “Similar to the investigation of guilt, it
would also be interesting for future research to
take a closer look at the relation between reac-
tance and other negative (and positive) emo-
tions, like fear (or humor)” (p. 211). In support,
these authors referred to unpublished evidence
(cited as Steindl, Jonas, Klackl, & Sittenthaler,
2015) showing that reactance arousal is associ-
ated with an array of positive feelings (e.g.,
strong, determined) in addition to the negative
outcomes that researchers commonly assess.
Other assessments of this proposition are also
encouraging, as Rosenberg and Siegel (2017a)
showed that freedom threats increased out-
comes not typically assessed in relation to PRT,
such as social dominance orientation (SDO;
Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). In
another study, Steindl and Jonas (2015) re-
ported that interpersonal freedom threats
aroused reactance, and also biased people’s sub-
sequent cognitions and evaluations of their in-
teraction partner. Using this approach, research-
ers could examine a number of simultaneous,
compensatory outcomes after threatening peo-
ple’s freedom. For example, anger, which a core
feature of reactance, is positively associated
with a host of negative and positive outcomes:
riskier decision making (e.g., Baumann & De-
Steno, 2012), increased willingness to punish a
wrongdoer (e.g., Ask & Pina, 2011), and opti-
mistic appraisals of stressors (e.g., Dunn &
Schweitzer, 2005).
In recognition of the recent 50th anniversary
of Brehm’s (1966) proposal of PRT and the
special issue that Zeitschrift fur¨ Psychologie
(2015) devoted to it, the current analysis pro-
vides an overarching framework for past PRT
research and focuses on fruitful areas for con-
tinued scholarship. Complementing recent, dis-
cipline-specific comprehensive reviews (e.g.,
Quick et al., 2013), we integrated PRT research
across fields in which it has flourished, outlining
five overlapping waves in the PRT literature:
Wave 1: Theory proposal and testing, Wave 2:
Contributions from clinical psychology, Wave
3: Contributions from communication research,
Wave 4: Measurement of reactance, and Wave
5: Return to motivation.
A key feature of this amalgamation of the
literature is a description of interdisciplinary
future directions for each of these fields. Clini-
cal psychology must first determine whether
trait reactance is a fruitful construct to continue
investigating. In addition, these scholars can
focus on other personality variables that relate
to reactance proneness for example, Type A,
Rhodewalt & Marcroft, 1988) and take advan-
tage of measurement advances from communi-
cation research. Communication scholars
should continue pushing PRT forward, includ-
ing answering fundamental questions that re-
main open (e.g., the relationship between pro-
portion of freedoms threatened and reactance
arousal). Scholars working on direct measure-
ment of reactance can continue developing the
intertwined measure (Dillard & Shen, 2005), as
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well as refining physiological measures of reac-
tance arousal (Sittenthaler, Steindl, et al., 2015).
Motivation science can focus on the factors that
affect people’s perceptions of freedom threats
(e.g., depressive symptomatology; Lienemann
& Siegel, 2016) and the desirability of freedom
restoration (e.g., uncertainty; Hogg, 2007).
Moreover, these scholars can assess the range of
catalysts (e.g., discrimination; Wicklund, 1974)
and outcomes (e.g., SDO; Rosenberg & Siegel,
2017a) rarely assessed in the context of PRT. A
main implication of returning to PRT’s motiva-
tional roots is vastly increasing its explanatory
power to continue addressing a range of socially
relevant phenomena. More broadly, revisiting
motivation should again inform research in clin-
ical psychology, communication, and measure-
ment—just as Brehm and Brehm’s (1981) syn-
thesis prompted the initial scholarship in these
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Received May 5, 2017
Revision received October 29, 2017
Accepted November 2, 2017
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... Previously, it was shown from experimental studies that the affective responses of the individuals reflect the unexpectedness of the outcomes they experience (Rutledge et al., 2014). Unexpected negative outcomes can be experienced as threatening or uncontrollable, which amplify negative affect and psychological reactance Fogarty, 1997;Crawford et al., 2002;Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018). Based on these previous studies, we hypothesized that negative changes in beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic situation (believing that the pandemic got worse) would negatively influence the affective states of individuals and decrease their compliance with the prevention measures. ...
... Another possible explanation could be that our findings reflect the psychological reactance against the uncontrollable COVID-19 situation of individuals. According to psychological reactance theory Fogarty, 1997;Crawford et al., 2002;Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018), a situation that threatens or eliminates freedom induces negative effects and motivates people to restore their autonomy by engaging in forbidden or restricted behaviors. In line with this view, a recent study showed a "fatalism effect" that the information of experts experimentally manipulated to induce negative expectation error about the COVID-19 situation (e.g., higher risk of viral transmission than expected) decreased the intention to perform preventive behavior (Akesson et al., 2020;Jimenez et al., 2020). ...
... Reactance is a cognitive reaction arising from experiencing threats from external stimuli (Kwon and Ahn, 2021). A persuasion that reduces or eliminates freedom induces reactance to restore freedom (Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018) either directly or indirectly, even if the persuasion is in their best interest. This eventually causes the failure of the persuasion. ...
... Direct restoration involves carrying out the forbidden act while indirect restorations include detracting from the source of the threat, rebuffing the existence of a threat, or employing a different choice alternative to enhance the feeling of restoration. According to Feng et al. (2019) and Rosenberg and Siegel (2018), reactance is discussed by considering the threat to freedom of choice, which provokes reactance, and consequently, restoration of freedom. ...
Purpose The deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in travel and tourism has received much attention in the wake of the pandemic. While societal adoption of AI has accelerated, it also raises some trust challenges. Literature on trust in AI is scant, especially regarding the vulnerabilities faced by different stakeholders to inform policy and practice. This work proposes a framework to understand the use of AI technologies from the perspectives of institutional and the self to understand the formation of trust in the mandated use of AI-based technologies in travelers. Design/methodology/approach An empirical investigation using partial least squares-structural equation modeling was employed on responses from 209 users. This paper considered factors related to the self (perceptions of self-threat, privacy empowerment, trust propensity) and institution (regulatory protection, corporate privacy responsibility) to understand the formation of trust in AI use for travelers. Findings Results showed that self-threat, trust propensity and regulatory protection influence trust in users on AI use. Privacy empowerment and corporate responsibility do not. Originality/value Insights from the past studies on AI in travel and tourism are limited. This study advances current literature on affordance and reactance theories to provide a better understanding of what makes travelers trust the mandated use of AI technologies. This work also demonstrates the paradoxical effects of self and institution on technologies and their relationship to trust. For practice, this study offers insights for enhancing adoption via developing trust.
... Thirdly, influencers have to stress their motivation for encouraging people to donate. Studies on persuasion knowledge (Friestad and Wright, 1994) and psychological reactance (Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018) have shown that egoistic and altruistic motivations in supporting a crowdfunding campaign "enhance the salience of the persuasive intent of the message, leading individuals to resist social influence by choosing not to give" (Feiler et al., 2012(Feiler et al., , p.1323. Moreover, third-party endorsements may not be construed as credible signals when the third parties are not prominent entities (Courtney et al., 2017). ...
... In the present study, leveraging the theories of psychological reactance (Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018) enabled us to argue that presenting both egoistic and altruistic motivations to support a crowdfunding campaign enhances the persuasive intent of the message, leading funders to back the campaign. In such cases, influencer endorsement and motivation appeared to act as a positive signal to the funder, creating a positive effect on the relationship between motivation and funding intention. ...
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate how influencer endorsement services stimulate funding intention in the context of crowdfunding (donation- and reward-based) and the moderating role played by platform trufvst and funder expertise. Design/methodology/approach To explore the effects of influencer endorsement services (i.e. perceived congruence, social influence and motivation) on funding intention in different crowdfunding campaigns, the authors developed a conceptual model tested using structural equation modelling. The authors also investigated two potential moderators underlying this relationship: platform trust and funder expertise. Findings The results of the study indicate that there was a positive effect of influencer endorsement services through the dimension congruence and the funding intention, both for reward- and donation-based crowdfunding. Moreover, they suggest that while perceived congruence has a positive effect on funding intention, when the two contexts are compared, only the moderating roles of platform trust over motivation and the funder expertise over motivation are significant and relevant. Practical implications The study has implications for both funders and those who seek to raise money for crowdfunding campaigns. The results offer new insights for developing effective crowdfunding campaigns, e.g. leveraging communication strategies based on the context of the crowdfunding (reward- vs donation-based) and the use of influencers as endorsers. Originality/value The present study is, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, the first to examine the impact of influencer endorsement services on crowdfunding campaigns, shedding new light on the interdisciplinary connections between service marketing and entrepreneurial finance in terms of fundraising activities. The study opens new and previously under-investigated interdisciplinary research streams. It deepens our understanding of a particular issue relating to the marketing and crowdfunding domain by measuring the impact of the influencer’s endorsement on people’s intention to participate in two different campaigns.
... Some examples of threat to freedom include pressure to comply, punishment for noncompliance, enforcing restrictive laws, and shortage of products (Algesheimer et al. 2005;Brehm and Brehm 2013;Martin 2002;Mazis et al. 1973). In essence, there are four elements involved in PRT which are modeled based on an order of occurrence (Rosenberg and Siegel 2018): (1) freedom, (2) threat to freedom, (3) psychological reactance, and (4) restoration of freedom (Dillard and Shen 2005). In the context of brand deletion, (1) freedom represents consumers' freedom of choice to buy the brand they love whereas a (2) threat to this freedom is experienced when that brand is deleted. ...
... Assuming that an individual has freedom, the most proximal cause of reactance presented in past literature is a perceived threat to that individual's freedom (Brehm 1966;Dillard and Shen 2005;Mazis et al. 1973;Rosenberg and Siegel 2018). The more the number of freedoms threatened, the more important the freedom to the individual, and the higher the severity of the threat to an individual's freedom, the higher is the arousal of psychological reactance (Rosenberg and Siegel 2018). ...
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When companies delete brands, devoted, yet unhappy consumers experience psychological reactance and initiate brand resurrection movements (BRMs) to bring their beloved brand back into their lives. In this Web 2.0 era, numerous consumer-led activism initiatives have been launched via social media to resurrect dead brands. On the other hand, relaunching a deleted brand is a crucial decision for a company and involves various financial and strategic implications. Therefore, it becomes imperative for brand managers to understand the drivers of BRMs. This research investigates the role of nostalgic brand love, threat to freedom, and psychological reactance as drivers of social media activism for brand resurrection by surveying 499 participants of a real BRM who utilized social media to successfully bring their cherished brand back into the market. The findings show that psychological reactance partially mediates the relationship between threat to freedom and social media activism for brand resurrection, and fully mediates the relationship between nostalgic brand love and social media activism for brand resurrection. This research contributes to the brand management and marketing literature by (1) applying psychological reactance theory to BRMs, (2) introducing a new second-order construct (nostalgic brand love), and (3) expounding the mediating role of psychological reactance.
... Classification of and discrimination against individuals based on age is prevalent worldwide [5]. People are also likely to hold negative attitudes toward the target if they feel that the target directed negative attitudes toward them [16]. Accordingly, older adults who perceive more ageism toward them will have more negative attitudes toward young people. ...
... While empirical research is lacking on attitudes held by older adults toward young people [14,21], we suggest that ageism directed by young people may strengthen older adults' negative attitudes toward them. When people perceive negative attitudes directed toward them, they are more likely to view the other party unfavorably [16]. In addition, our findings suggest that young people's ageism may reduce older adults' life satisfaction. ...
... Despite the widespread awareness of the role of PFMU to prevent COVID-19, many people resisted wearing face masks or used them wrongly, and others abandoned face mask use all together after vaccination (Bartsch et al., 2022;Esmaeilzadeh, 2022;Mallinas et al., 2021;Pal and Yadav, 2022;Taylor and Asmundson, 2021;Sikakulya et al., 2021). This resistance may have indicated three things: First, that awareness, instructions, threats, and motivation did not necessarily translate into the desirable health behavior of consistent and proper PFMU (Kelly and Barker, 2016;Michie and West, 2021;Tadesse et al., 2020); Second, that people developed psychological reactance to mandatory PFMU (Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018;Taylor and Asmundson, 2021); and third some people had anti-mask attitudes (Mallinas et al., 2021) which lowered the likelihood of PFMU. ...
... Based on the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991(Ajzen, , 2020 people who hold favourable attitudes and subjective norms regarding wearing masks are more likely to form a favourable intention and those who intend to use masks are more likely to do so than those who do not intend to. Although intentions do not always translate into behavior (Ajzen, 2020), measuring attitudes towards mask use can show the public's reactions to mask adoption during the Covid-19 including psychological reactance (Rosenberg and Siegel, 2018;Taylor and Asmundson, 2021). In addition, attitudes are based on the beliefs that people hold regarding the consequences of mask use, others' expectations, and the factors that may facilitate or hinder mask use (Ajzen, 2020;Martinelli et al., 2021). ...
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Despite availability of instruments for measuring attitudes towards mask use, the psychometric properties of many available instruments are not adequately established which limits their research usefulness across contexts. In three studies, we developed the Attitudes Towards Face Mask Use Scale (ATFMUS) in three phases: item generation, scale development, and scale evaluation. Phase one and two were addressed in study 1 while phase three was addressed in studies 2 and 3. In Study 1, a combined online and pen-and-paper sample of 174 (78% university students) completed a questionnaire with 19 items regarding attitudes towards face mask use derived from theory, previous research, and experience. Responses were subjected to item reduction analysis, exploratory factor analysis and reliability analysis. In Study 2, a student sample of 674 (70.5% high school) completed the new scale together with measures of COVID-19 related anxiety and obsession, personality, affect, social media use, and social desirability. Data from the ATFMUS were analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and pertinent revisions done. The ATFMUS was then validated using correlation analyses, measurement invariance analyses, and known-group comparisons. In study 3, two samples of university students from Ghana (n = 242) and Kenya (n = 199) were involved in testing the cross-country invariance of the ATFMUS. The results reveal that the 5-item ATFMUS is a reliable and valid scale for assessing attitudes towards face mask use. Invariance analysis revealed that the ATFMUS is fair to use across participants of different age, level of education, and countries. The scale is also sensitive to participants’ actual use of face masks as well as their beliefs about COVID-19 and efficacy of the facemasks. This study offers a foundation for further psychometric evaluation of the ATFMUS.
Objective: In most countries, vaccine uptake is a voluntary decision. If people experience threats to this freedom, for example, by pro-vaccination media campaigns or government pressure, psychological reactance may be induced. To regain freedom, the opposite behaviour (vaccine refusal) may become more attractive, forming a vaccination barrier. It remains unclear how state reactance fluctuates and how it relates to vaccination intention versus behaviour. Therefore, this pre-registered longitudinal study aimed to gain insight in the changes in state reactance during a COVID-19 vaccination programme and its relationship with vaccine uptake. Methods: A representative sample of Dutch adults under 60 completed questionnaires before being eligible for vaccination, shortly before they were invited for vaccination, and after the opportunity for vaccination. Results: Data were analysed using regression analyses (N = 1411). Reactance did not change as hypothesised, but remained stable over time. As hypothesised, reactance predicted lower subsequent vaccination intention. Controlling for intentions, however, reactance did not predict vaccine uptake. Furthermore, reactance predicted lower decision confidence about vaccination, except for people who strongly opposed vaccination. Conclusion: Reactance has a sustained role in anticipation of a vaccination decision. Although reactance seems to affect the process towards the decision, this does not determine the final choice.
Using a 2 (mortality: salient, control) × 2 (freedom‐limiting language: freedom‐limiting, autonomy‐supportive) independent‐group design, this study examined the relationship between mortality salience and psychological reactance in the context of texting‐and‐driving prevention messages. The terror management health model and the theory of psychological reactance guided study predictions. Results showed mortality salience produced adaptive effects on attitudes toward texting‐and‐driving prevention and behavioral intentions to reduce unsafe driving practices. Additionally, some evidence for the effectiveness of directive, albeit freedom‐limiting communication, emerged. These and other results are discussed along with the implications, limitations, and future research directions.
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In the age of digitalization, travel applications (or travel apps) are indispensable tools for modern travel activities. During an app's selection and adoption phases, privacy concerns remain a sensitive issue that may demotivate users’ from continuing to use it. This study integrated both the stimulus-organism-response model (S-O-R) and psychological reaction theory (PRT) to explore the factors that influence users’ app usage experiences and behavioral responses. A self-administered questionnaire was designed and distributed to Gen Y users in mainland China. The findings of PLS-SEM analysis showed that usage intentions are predicted by the ability of travel apps to engage with users and generate favorable values. Additionally, users with low privacy concerns were shown to have a stronger intention to recommend travel apps to others. All in all, the findings from this study offer valuable insights to tourism providers and app developers.
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Psychological reactance theory posits that when people are faced with threats to, or elimination of, behavioral freedom, they experience an aversive motivational state (i.e., psychological reactance). Recent research indicates that people’s state of mind affects reactance arousal processes. We hypothesized that being in a state of threatening uncertainty would cause people to experience less psychological reactance to a freedom-threatening communication than those in a state of certainty. We randomly assigned 114 students from a North American University to an uncertainty- or certainty-inducing recall task; they were then exposed to a reactance-arousing message. Compared to participants primed to feel certain, those primed with threatening uncertainty reported significantly less threat and more positive attitudes in response to a freedom threatening communication. Mediation analysis revealed an indirect effect of feelings of threatening uncertainty on people’s behavioral intentions, through perceptions of the controlling message. Results support our hypothesis: people in a state of uncertainty experience less psychological reactance than those in a state of certainty.
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The authors examined how gender stereotypes affect negotiation performance. Men outperformed women when the negotiation was perceived as diagnostic of ability (Experiment 1) or the negotiation was linked to gender-specific traits (Experiment 2), suggesting the threat of negative stereotype confirmation hurt women's performance relative to men. The authors hypothesized that men and women confirm gender stereotypes when they are activated implicitly, but when stereotypes are explicitly activated, people exhibit stereotype reactance, or the tendency to behave in a manner inconsistent with a stereotype. Experiment 3 confirmed this hypothesis. In Experiment 4, the authors examined the cognitive processes involved in stereotype reactance and the conditions under which cooperative behaviors between men and women can be promoted at the bargaining table (by activating a shared identity that transcends gender).
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Psychological reactance is typically assumed to motivate resistance to controlling peer influences and societal prohibitions. However, some peer influences encourage behaviors prohibited by society. We consider whether reactant individuals are sensitive to such opportunities to enhance their autonomy. We specifically propose a self-regulatory perspective on reactance, wherein freedom/autonomy is the superordinate goal, and thus highly reactant individuals will be sensitive to peer influences that could enhance their behavioral freedoms. In 2 studies, we find that reactant individuals can be cooperative in response to autonomy-supportive peer influences. Participants read a scenario in which a peer’s intentions to engage in substance use were manipulated to imply freedom of choice or not. Results indicated that highly reactant participants were sensitive to deviant peers whose own behavior toward alcohol (Study 1, N = 160) or marijuana (Study 2, N = 124) appeared to be motivated by autonomy and thus afforded free choice. Altogether, the results support a self-regulatory model of reactance, wherein deviant peer influence can be a means to pursue autonomy.
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Social commentary about prevention messages may affect their likelihood of acceptance. To investigate this possibility, student participants (N = 663) viewed three anti-marijuana advertisements, each followed immediately by videotaped discussions involving four adults or four adolescents using either extreme or moderate language in their positive commentaries. The commentaries were expected to affect participants’ perceptions of the extent to which the ads were designed to control their behavior (perceived control), which was hypothesized to inhibit persuasion. Two indirect effects analyses were conducted. Marijuana attitudes and usage intentions were the outcome variables. Both analyses revealed statistically significant source by language interactions on participants’ perceived control (both p < .02). Further analyses revealed significant indirect effects of language extremity on attitudes and intentions through perceived control with adult, but not peer sources (both p < .05). These perceptions were associated with more negative marijuana attitudes and diminished usage intentions when adults used moderate (vs. extreme) language in their favorable ad commentaries (both p < .05). The findings may facilitate development of more effective prevention methods that emphasize the importance the role of perceived control in persuasion, and the impact of interpersonal communication variations on acceptance of media-transmitted prevention messages.
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Research shows that assertive ads, which direct consumers to take specific actions (e.g., Visit us; Just do it!), are ineffective due to reactance. However, such ads remain prevalent. We reexamine assertive ads, showing that their effectiveness depends on consumers' relationship with the advertising brand. Across studies, we compare committed and uncommitted consumers' reactions to assertive ads. We find that because committed (vs. uncommitted) brand relationships involve stronger compliance norms, assertive ads create greater pressure to comply for committed consumers. Specifically, we propose and show that committed consumers anticipate feeling guilty if they ignore an assertive message, creating pressure to comply. Pressure to comply increases reactance, which paradoxically reduces compliance, ultimately leading to decreased ad and brand liking as well as decreased monetary allocations to the brand. Our results show the perils that assertive ads pose for marketers and their most valuable customers.
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Reactance to persuasive messages involves perceived threat to freedom, anger, and counterarguing that may undermine the impact of health warnings. To understand reactance’s effects, reliable and valid assessment is critical. We sought to develop and validate a brief Reactance to Health Warnings Scale (RHWS). Two independent samples of US adults completed the brief RHWS in studies that presented warnings on cigarette packs that smokers carried with them for 4 weeks (Study 1; n = 2149) or as digital images of cigarette packs that participants viewed briefly (Study 2; n = 1413). The three-item Brief RHWS had good internal consistency and test–retest reliability. The scale correlated with higher trait reactance and exposure to pictorial warnings, supporting its convergent validity. With respect to predictive validity, the Brief RHWS predicted perceived message effectiveness, quit intentions, avoidance of the warnings, and number of cigarettes smoked per day. The Brief RHWS can serve as an efficient adjunct to the development of persuasive messages.
We tested the effects of reframing and restraining directives on depression of high- and low-reactant clients. Reframing was more effective than restraining or control, and level of reactance had no effect. Restraining did not differ from control. Subjects were 74 moderately to severely depressed outpatients. Results are discussed in light of the compliance–defiance model of paradoxical interventions and psychological reactance theory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
The term elevation (also referred to as moral elevation), described by Thomas Jefferson and later coined by Jonathan Haidt, refers to the suite of feelings people may experience when witnessing an instance of moral beauty. The construct of elevation signifies the emotion felt when a person is a witness to, but not a recipient of, the moral behavior of others. Scholarship examining elevation has burgeoned since Haidt first introduced the construct. Researchers have explored the antecedents of, and outcomes associated with, witnessing instances of moral beauty. The current review will outline the existing scholarship on elevation, highlight conflicting findings, point out critical gaps in the current state of elevation research, and delineate fertile future directions for basic and applied research. Continued investigation of the affective, motivational, and behavioral responses associated with witnessing virtuous actions of others is warranted.