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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2016 Apr;42(4):458-70. doi: 10.1177/0146167216634055.

Explaining Self and Vicarious Reactance: A Process Model Approach.

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University of Salzburg, Austria
University of Salzburg, Austria.


Research shows that people experience a motivational state of agitation known as reactance when they perceive restrictions to their freedoms. However, research has yet to show whether people experience reactance if they merely observe the restriction of another person's freedom. In Study 1, we activated realistic vicarious reactance in the laboratory. In Study 2, we compared people's responses with their own and others' restrictions and found the same levels of experienced reactance and behavioral intentions as well as aggressive tendencies. We did, however, find differences in physiological arousal: Physiological arousal increased quickly after participants imagined their own freedom being restricted, but arousal in response to imagining a friend's freedom being threatened was weaker and delayed. In line with the physiological data, Study 3's results showed that self-restrictions aroused more emotional thoughts than vicarious restrictions, which induced more cognitive responses. Furthermore, in Study 4a, a cognitive task affected only the cognitive process behind vicarious reactance. In contrast, in Study 4b, an emotional task affected self-reactance but not vicarious reactance. We propose a process model explaining the emotional and cognitive processes of self- and vicarious reactance.


(vicarious) reactance; physiological arousal; process model; restrictions

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