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Psychological Reactance

  • By: Brian L. Quick
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Jack Brehm's psychological reactance theory (PRT) offers an explanation for how individuals respond to a threatened or eliminated freedom. Although the theory is not new, within the past decade PRT has emerged as a leading framework among health communication researchers. Researchers have used this theory to explain why some persuasive messages are ineffective with their intended audience. Attention is given to PRT's theoretical principles, measuring psychological reactance, message features associated with reactance, outcomes of reactance, and trait reactance as a segmentation variable.

Four Principles of Psychological Reactance Theory

Four principles provide the foundation of PRT. Principle 1 states that reactance can only be aroused if individuals possess the knowledge that a freedom exists and feel competent in their ability to perform the behavior. Principle 2 holds that ...

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