Is Freedom Contagious? A Self-Regulatory Model of Reactance and Sensitivity to Deviant Peers.
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 two 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 towards 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.
Leander, NP; vanDellen, MR; Rachl-Willberger, J; Shah, JY; Fitzsimons, GJ; Chartrand, TL
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