The Nature of Psychological Reactance Revisited: A Meta-Analytic Review


Stephen A. Rains; e-mail:


Psychological reactance (Brehm, 1966; Brehm & Brehm, 1981) has been a long-standing topic of interest among scholars studying the design and effects of persuasive messages and campaigns. Yet, until recently, reactance was considered to be a motivational state that could not be measured. Dillard and Shen (2005) argued that reactance can be conceptualized as cognition and affect and made amenable to direct measurement. This article revisits Dillard and Shen's (2005) questions about the nature of psychological reactance and reports a test designed to identify the best fitting model of reactance. A meta-analytic review of reactance research was conducted (K = 20, N = 4,942) and the results were used to test path models representing competing conceptualizations of reactance. The results offer evidence that the intertwined model—in which reactance is modeled as a latent factor with anger and counterarguments serving as indicators—best fit the data.