Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 277–290 | Cite as

Reactance, autonomy and paths to persuasion: Examining perceptions of threats to freedom and informational value

  • Louisa Pavey
  • Paul Sparks
Original Paper


Autonomy, often associated with an open and reflective evaluation of experience, is sometimes confused with reactance, which indicates resistance to persuasion attempts. Two studies examined a path model in which autonomy and reactance predicted motivation following the provision of anonymous or source-identified health-risk information, via the mediation of perceived threat to decision-making freedom and of perceived informational value. Study 1 (N = 122) investigated alcohol consumption. The results showed that autonomy was positively related to autonomous motivation and intentions to drink responsibly. Reactance negatively predicted autonomous motivation in the source-identified information condition but positively predicted autonomous motivation and intentions in the anonymous information condition. Reactance negatively predicted attitudes through the mediation of perceived threat to decision-making freedom. Study 2 (N = 145) tested our hypothesized model for smoking behavior and replicated several of the Study 1 findings. Implications for our understanding of autonomy, reactance, and responses to risk-information are discussed.


Reactance Autonomy Persuasion Health Motivation 



This research was funded by a UK Economic and Social Research Council grant to Louisa Pavey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SussexFalmerUK

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