Reactance versus rationalization: divergent responses to policies that constrain freedom.
How do people respond to government policies and work environments that place restrictions on their personal freedoms? The psychological literature offers two contradictory answers to this question. Here, we attempt to resolve this apparent discrepancy. Specifically, we identify the absoluteness of a restriction as one factor that determines how people respond to it. Across two studies, participants responded to absolute restrictions (i.e., restrictions that were sure to come into effect) with rationalization: They viewed the restrictions more favorably, and valued the restricted freedoms less, compared with control participants. Participants responded in the opposite way to identical restrictions that were described as nonabsolute (i.e., as having a small chance of not coming into effect): In this case, participants displayed reactance, viewing the restrictions less favorably, and valuing the restricted freedoms more, compared with control participants. We end by discussing future research directions.
Laurin, K; Kay, AC; Fitzsimons, GJ
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