THE DYNAMICS OF REACTANCE AND COGNITIVE STRUCTURE: REACTANCE, RESTORATION, AND TIME.
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This dissertation examined the effects of freedom-limiting communication on attitude structures at three points in time. A 2 (Threat to freedom: low threat vs. high threat) x 2 (Restoration postscript: present vs. filler postscript) x 3 (Time: immediate-time measurement vs. one-minute delay vs. two-minute delay) plus 3 (control groups for each time point: immediate-time measurement vs. one-minute delay vs. two-minute delay) between-participants design was employed. The results replicated the findings of existing research on reactance by showing that when threat to freedom was high, a boomerang effect emerged, leading to change in attitude and behavioral intention in the direction opposite to the one advocated in the message. This study also advanced the theory of reactance by documenting how threat to freedom affects both the focal attitude concept targeted by the message (here, recycling) as well as a concept related to the target concept (here, energy conservation). In addition, the effects of pairing different levels of threat to freedom with a restoration postscript were examined: The findings indicated that adding a restoration postscript (defined as the suggestion that an individual still has freedom to make a decision) to low threat to freedom messages might be detrimental to persuasion as compared to adding a restoration component when threat to freedom is high. Finally, the effects of threat to freedom and restoration over time were considered: The results of the experiment suggest that reactance effects may not be persistent over time.