Effects of Freedom Restoration, Language Variety, and Issue Type on Psychological Reactance

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

18 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1316-1327
Journal / PublicationHealth Communication
Issue number11
Online published21 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


Psychological reactance theory proposes that people resist persuasive messages when they feel their freedom is being threatened. While most reactance studies have focused on a single issue and the role of message features has received a modest amount of attention, the present study synthesizes research on sociolinguistic and public opinion to investigate how reactance is affected by freedom restoration, language variety (i.e., the standard versus colloquial forms of a language), and issues: enduring (binge-drinking prevention), emerging (organ donation), and transitory (political consumerism). An online posttest-only between-subject experiment implemented in a public university in Hong Kong (n = 402) revealed that messages written with the high variety of language triggered a perceived freedom threat for the political consumerism issue, whereas freedom restoration postscripts reduced the perceived freedom threat for the organ-donation issue. A perceived freedom threat was positively associated with reactance, and reactance resulted in more negative appraisals of the source and more negative perceptions of the position advocated in the message. The results also revealed the indirect effects of freedom restoration and language variety on behavioral intentions. The study extends reactance theory to a non-English-speaking, non-Western context and examines the applicability of the theory to different issue contexts. © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.