Does it make a difference who tells you what to do? : exploring the effect of social agency on psychological reactance

M.A.J. Roubroeks, C.J.H. Midden, J.R.C. Ham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Nowadays, many advertising campaigns attempt to persuade people to perform a specific behavior. In response to such messages, people can comply and adapt their behavior in the proposed direction. However, people can also experience psychological reactance, which may lead to the complete opposite of the target behavior. In the present study, we were interested in the social nature of psychological reactance. According to Social Agency Theory [12], more social cues lead to more social interaction. We suggest that this also holds for psychological reactance. We argue that there is a positive relation between the level of social agency of the source of a message and the level of psychological reactance that this message can arouse. In an online study, participants received low-controlling or high-controlling advice about energy conservation. This advice was delivered either solely as text, as text with a still picture of a robotic agent, or as text with a brief film clip of the same robotic agent. Results showed that a high-controlling advisory message resulted in more reactance than a low-controlling advisory message. Confirming our expectancies, stronger social agency of the messenger led to more psychological reactance. Implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology, April 26-29, 2009, Claremont, California
EditorsS. Chatterjee, P. Dev
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pagesarticle no. 15-
ISBN (Print)978-1-60558-376-1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology (PERSUASIVE 2009) - Claremont, United States
Duration: 26 Apr 200929 Apr 2009
Conference number: 4


Conference4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology (PERSUASIVE 2009)
Abbreviated titlePERSUASIVE 2009
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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