Boomerang Effects in Response to Public Health Interventions: Some Unintended Consequences in the Alcoholic Beverage Market
- Cite this article as:
- Ringold, D.J. Journal of Consumer Policy (2002) 25: 27. doi:10.1023/A:1014588126336
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Some warnings and other public health interventions have been found to produce effects opposite to those intended. Researchers employing a variety of methods have observed these boomerang effects in connection with interventions in a number of different contexts. One possible explanation for such boomerang effects lies in the theory of psychological reactance, roughly defined as the state of being aroused in opposition to perceived threats to personal choice. In particular, some consumer reactions described in research on alcoholic beverage warnings, alcohol education efforts, and the minimum drinking age can be concisely explained in terms of psychological reactance. An obvious implication is that boomerang effects should be taken into account as one of the potential costs of launching a mass communication campaign or requiring a warning. In some cases (such as warnings about the health effects of alcohol abuse) there may be so little to be gained in terms of improved consumer knowledge that the potential cost of oppositional attitudes or behavior should receive substantial attention in the evaluation of proposed and current interventions.