An explication of the reactance processing model



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas A&M University


The present dissertation applied the theoretical assumptions of Psychological Reactance Theory into a model depicting how individuals cognitively process reactanceinducing print messages utilizing a communication framework, the Reactance Processing Model (RPM). Specifically, the RPM conceptualizes reactance as a motivational state, investigates the degree of reactance arousal elicited by threat-tochoice, vivid, and explicit language (along with an additive effect of the aforementioned message features), empirically measures reactance restoration, and explores the role of issue involvement on message processing of reactance-inducing print messages advocating exercise and sunscreen usage by college students (N = 550). The RPM was tested using an experimental 2 (implicit vs. explicit) X 2 (non-vivid vs. vivid) X 2 (lowthreat- to-choice language vs. high-threat-to-choice language) posttest only design. Four general conclusions are drawn from this investigation. First, results support operationalizing reactance as a latent construct comprised of unfavorable cognitions and state anger. Second, of the three message features examined, high threat-to-choice and vivid language, along with a combination of both were found to elicit reactance. Explicit language did not trigger reactance in this study. Third, perceived high threat-tochoice language was positively associated with reactance whereas perceived vivid and explicit language was either negatively or not associated with reactance. Fourth, reactance was positively related to three types of restoration including ??Boomerang,?? ??Related Boomerang,?? and ??Vicarious Boomerang.?? Specifically, ??Boomerang?? restoration appears to be triggered regardless of threat attractiveness whereas ??Related Boomerang?? and ??Vicarious Boomerang?? require an attractive threat before being set into motion. Results from this investigation along with the limitations and heuristic value of the RPM are provided.