Fear and psychological reactance: Between-versus within-individuals perspectives

Lijiang Shen, Valerie B. Coles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Psychological reactance and related defensive processes have been long cited as an explanation for failure of fear appeal messages. The overwhelming majority of studies on fear and reactance have only examined the intensity of fear from a between-individuals perspective, in which individuals who have higher peak fear are predicted to experience stronger levels of psychological reactance. Recent development in the fear appeal research suggests an alternative perspective: Psychological reactance is activated when fear is aroused but not reduced within each individual; on the other hand, psychological reactance is mitigated or inhibited when fear is aroused and then reduced. Empirical data from a quasi-experimental study using graphic tobacco warning labels are used to test and compare the two approaches to studying the relationship between fear and psychological reactance. Implications for psychological reactance and fear appeal are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalZeitschrift fur Psychologie / Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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