Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: October 03, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412956253 | Print ISBN: 9781412916707 | Online ISBN: 9781412956253 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Nicole L. Mead
Broadly, reactance refers to the idea that people become upset when their freedom is threatened or eliminated, so much so that they attempt to reassert their lost freedom. The theory is relevant to the idea that humans are motivated to possess and preserve as many options and choices as possible. When people's options are restricted, they experience aversive emotional consequences. Reactance is very similar to a layperson's idea of reverse psychology: Humans will tend to do the opposite of what they are told to. Being ordered to do something by an external person or source implies that someone is trying to reduce one's freedom. Reactance also refers to the idea that people will want something more if they are told they cannot have it. As a result, humans may act in a manner that will oppose a resistance presented to their freedom. Psychological reactance theory was first proposed by the ...