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Kayser, Daniela Niesta; Graupmann, Verena; Fryer, James W. and Frey, Dieter (2016): Threat to Freedom and the Detrimental Effect of Avoidance Goal Frames: Reactance as a Mediating Variable. In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7, 632 [PDF, 302kB]


Two experiments examined how individuals respond to a restriction presented within an approach versus an avoidance frame. In Study 1, working on a problem-solving task, participants were initially free to choose their strategy, but for a second task were told to change their strategy. The message to change was embedded in either an approach or avoidance frame. When confronted with an avoidance compared to an approach frame, the participants' reactance toward the request was greater and, in turn, led to impaired performance. The role of reactance as a response to threat to freedom was explicitly examined in Study 2, in which participants evaluated a potential change in policy affecting their program of study herein explicitly varying whether a restriction was present or absent and whether the message was embedded in an approach versus avoidance frame. When communicated with an avoidance frame and as a restriction, participants showed the highest resistance in terms of reactance, message agreement and evaluation of the communicator. The difference in agreement with the change was mediated by reactance only when a restriction was present. Overall, avoidance goal frames were associated with more resistance to change on different levels of experience (reactance, performance, and person perception). Reactance mediated the effect of goal frame on other outcomes only when a restriction was present.

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