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Relationship between Rebellious Tendency and Psychological Reactance:
Implications in Effective Health Campaign Message Designs
Moon J. Lee, Washington State University, Assistant Professor
Yi-Chun Yvonnes Chen, Washington State University, Master's Student
Direct reprint requests to:
Moon J. Lee
Edward R. Murrow School of Communication
Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-2520
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This paper discusses the importance of understanding individuals'
behavioral and psychological characteristics in designing effective
campaign messages. Two useful characteristics were examined:
rebelliousness and psychological Reactance. In particular, this study
investigates a relationship between individuals' rebellious tendency and
psychological reactance. In an effort to better understand these
tendencies and their applicability to effective health message designs,
issues related to the operationalization of both constructs and scale
developments were also discussed. An attempt was made to compare
individuals' rebelliousness and their psychological reactance. In
addition, several tests were conducted to investigate the relationship
between the participants' rebellious tendency and risky behaviors. The
rebelliousness scale exhibited a strong correlation with the risky
behaviors such as heavy drinking. However, the correlation between the
rebelliousness and psychological reactance was also strong, as
anticipated. In conclusion, individuals' rebellious tendency seems a
stronger predictor of risky behaviors than their physiological reactance.
The implications of the findings and suggestions for future research in
effective health message designs are addressed in the discussion.
Despite of public health campaign practitioners' extensive efforts to
promote healthier life styles, some public health campaigns fail to produce
the desired outcomes (Foxcraft, Lister-Shpart, & Lowe, 1997; Wilde, 1993)
or even result in the opposite end from original intents (Hornik, 2002;
Stewar & Martin, 1994). The core issue is whether campaign strategies and
messages that are supposed to effectively target their publics are being
designed according to their targeted publics' individual tendencies or
characteristics that may alter expected outcomes.
There is strong evidence suggesting that one risky behavior such as
substance abuse, is strongly associated with other risky behaviors. For
example, heavy alcohol use has been identified as a gateway to other drugs
(Bardo, Donohew, & Harrington, 1996; Birch, Ashton, & Kamali, 1998;McC & M,
1996) including tobacco use (Humfleet, Munoz, Sees, Reus, & Hall, 1999;
Epstein, Botvin, & Diaz, 1999; Kraft & Rise, 1994; Rigotti, 2000; Le, 2002;
Istvan, & Matarazzo, 1984; Sobell, Sobell, Kozlowski, & Toneatto, 1990;
Brook, Brook, Zhang, Cohen, & Whiteman, 2002; Ford, Vu, & Anthony,
2002). The fact that there is a high correlation among these risky
behaviors (Istvan & Matarazzo, 1984; Werzels, Kremers, Vitoria, & de Vrise,
2003; Le, 2002; Ritchey, Reid, & Hasse, 2001; Bendixen & Olweus, 1999;
Ramsey, Strong, Stuart, Weinstock, Williams, Tarnoff, Picotte-Prillmayer &
Brown 2003), indicates that there might be an underlying mechanism as to
why individuals tend to take risks without much consideration for the
negative consequences and reject recommendations from health promotional
Individuals with these behaviors may exhibit a stronger tendency to rebel
against rules or recommendations that seem to oppose their will, known as
rebellious risk-taking tendency (Ferguson, Valenti, & Melwani, 1991; Lee &
Ferguson, 2002; Lee & Chen, 2003). This tendency can be better understood
when we consider why certain health campaign messages backfire with respect
to a certain group of people. The more we try to prevent individuals from
doing something risky, the less they are likely to change their risky
behaviors. The question is "why"?
One useful theoretical explanation can be driven from the notion of
psychological reactance, a tendency to regain control when an individual
perceives his/her own personal freedom is constrained (Brehm & Brehm, 1966,
1891). Several researchers started advocating the importance of
understanding this psychological phenomenon in designing messages in a
manner that defuses or at least does not trigger individuals' psychological
reactance (Dillard & Shen, 2003; Gradpre, Alvaro, Burgoon, Miller, and
In this study, the theoretical framework of rebellious risk-taking
tendency and its relationship with psychological reactance is explored with
the consideration of other identified risky behavioral factors. In
addition, an attempt was made to reassess the college students' rebellious
risk-taking tendencies by conducting a confirmatory factor analysis with
the data gathered at a university and its adjacent community in a northwest
region from 2003 to 2004.
The purpose of the study was to introduce two useful individual
characteristics in effective health message designs. Also, an attempt was
made to refine existing measurements to capture individuals' rebellious
risk-taking tendency and test their validity through demonstrating its
relations with the original scale and other known behavioral indicators of
risk-taking such as conduct problems in school. In addition, the
psychological reactance measure was examined in relation with the
rebellious tendency of individuals.
Individual Characteristics and Substance Uses
Several studies focus on personality constructs in relation to substance
use (Chassin, Presson, Sherman, Corty, & Olshavsky 1981; Collins, Sussman,
Rauch, Dent, Johnson, Hansen, & Flay, 1987; Stacy, Sussman, Dent, Burton, &
Flay, 1992). For example, it was indicated that individuals who smoke tend
to be extroverted, anticonformist, and rebellious (Barefoot, Smith,
Dahlstrom, & Williams, 1989; Cherry & Kiernan, 1976; Eysenck, 1980;
Grunberg, Winders, & Wewers, 1991; Jessor & Jessor, 1977; Smith, 1970;
Spielberger, 1986). Some personality traits such as impulsiveness,
rebelliousness, self-deviancy, sensation seeking, and hostility/aggression
are identified as indicators for future substance uses including smoking
(Lipkus, Barefoot, Williams & Siegler, 1994; Kraft & Rise, 1994).
It is well documented that drinking, smoking, and use of illicit drugs are
highly inter-correlated (Jenks, 1992). Some argued that different
behavioral types of risk-taking should be considered in designing effective
campaign messages because they might exhibit different types of drives and
reasons for their behavioral patterns and decision-making (Ferguson,
Valenti, & Melwani, 1991; Lee & Ferguson, 2002) and in turn they might have
different reactions to given messages.
Ferguson, Valenti, and Melwani (1991) identified several risk-taking types
based on the behaviors exhibited by the risk takers. They focused on
risk-taking predisposition rather than on the origins of the behaviors such
as sensation-seeking. They believed that risk-taking behavior has several
potential origins. They argued that although the origins help to
understand why the behavior occurs (Ferguson, et al., 1991), the
risk-taking tendencies based on behavioral differences should be considered
by communicators who seek effective ways to communicate with different
types of risk-takers (Lee & Ferguson, 2002). Based on their data from
seven different studies, Ferguson et al. (1991) explored different
dimensions for risk-taking.
They defined risk-taking predisposition as "a tendency to engage in
behaviors that an individual understands to have some likelihood of
resulting in a punishment or in the loss of a reward (p.196)." In
particular, rebellious risk-taking tendency was considered very relevant to
substance use research (Lee & Ferguson, 2002). This construct is similar to
Zuckerman's Disinhibition in that individuals of this type tend to seek
sensation through other people or partying, social drinking, and sex.
Rebellious personality types tend to take risks for the sake of opposing
perceived social norms and tend to enjoy being labeled as a "rebel"
(Ferguson, Valenti, & Melwani, 1991). Those who are smokers and ex-smokers
tend to score high in this area (Jex & Lombard, 1998; Lipkus, Barefoot,
Williams & Siegler, 1994). This personality type also tends to take risks
not for perceived benefits, but rather for notoriety among others for being
rebellious or daring (Lee & Ferguson, 2002).
In sum, the rebellious risk taker often takes risks as a way of breaking
social norms, rules, and laws and prides himself/herself on being known as
a rebel (Lee & Ferguson, 2002).
It was argued that effective health campaign efforts should better target
individuals in terms of their specific needs (Austin, 1994; Christiansen,
Goldman, & Inn, 1982; Miller, Smith, & Goldman, 1989, Lee & Ferguson, 2002;
Lee & Bichard, 2002; Lee & Chen, 2003). Their different types of
risk-taking are considered as crucial interacting factors with different
types of messages (Lee & Ferguson, 2002). The fact that substance use is
highly correlated with other risky behaviors suggests that there might be
an underlying mechanism, such as a risk-taking tendency, that tends to peak
in the late teens and early twenties.
Lee and Chen (2003) re-conceptualize the rebelliousness as risk-taking
tendency and developed a scale of rebelliousness based on the original
items from Ferguson, et al. (1991) as well as newly proposed
items. Several tests were conducted to address validity issues related to
this scale (17 items) through seven different studies from 1998 to 2002
among 1, 449 college students. The scale of rebelliousness was proposed
and developed (Lee & Chen, 2003).
Psychological Reactance: Possible Explanation
The theory of psychological reactance (Brehm & Brehm, 1966) provides one
possible theoretical explanation of individuals' rebellious risk taking
tendency. Brehm and Brehm (1966) conceptualized that reactance is a
tendency to regain control when an individual perceives his/her own
personal freedom is constrained. Reactance, at first, was viewed as a
situational variable rather than an individual innate characteristic (Brehm
& Brehm, 1966, 1981). Later, studies found that the level of reactance
varies from individual to individual (cite). In recent therapeutic
psychological reactance studies, many scholars started treating the notion
of reactance as an individual variable based on the individual differences
shown in the psychological reactance theory.
Merz (1983) developed a scale of psychological reactance. However, the
measurability of psychological reactance sparked much criticism for its
alleged ambiguity and lack of validity (Tucker and Byers, 1987; Buboltz
Jr., Thomas, and Donnell, 2002; Donnell, Thomas, Buboltz. Jr., 2001,
Dillard & Shen, 2003). For example, Hong and Ostini (1989) and Donnell et
al., (2001) argued that psychological reactance is a multidimensional
construct and the existing measures of psychological reactance were
unsuccessful to capture the underlying assumption of psychological reactance.
Some personality characteristics (Donnell et al., 2001; Buboltz Jr et al.,
2002) and types of emotion (Dillard & Shen, 2003) have been identified with
psychological reactance. Personality traits such as anxiety, compliance and
autonomy, and emotion such as anger have been associated with the notion of
psychological reactance. Therefore, in this study, the relationship between
individuals' rebellious tendency and their psychological reactance was
tested. In comparison, these two measures were tested with known risky
behaviors, heavy drinking and its consequences, to better understand the
nature of individuals with rebellious tendency and their underlying psychology.
Theoretical Perspective of the Reactance Theory
Reactance theory was first introduced by Brehm and Brehm in 1966. They
posited that when people perceive their personal freedom is constrained or
limited, the motivation of restoring their lost freedom will be activated
(Brehm & Brehm, 1966; Brehm & Brehm, 1981). The first assumption of
reactance theory asserted that people have different ideas of what
constitutes an infringement on his/her freedom. Therefore, perception of
freedom is subjective rather than objective. They, however, did not
theoretically explain how people process behavioral freedoms (Brehm &
Due to the first assumption, the extent to which people oppose the advocacy
of a message also varies. Therefore, opposition to external control is
presumed to occur only when the control intrudes upon territory that the
person regards as free (Brehm & Brehm, p. 22, 1981). Reactance theory, in
advance, does not assume that people will oppose every situation when the
outside force interrupts their routine. On the other hand, it discusses the
circumstances upon which the reactant behavior will happen.
Overall, Brehm and Brehm (1966, 1981) stated that people are presumed to
perceive themselves as having specific behavioral freedoms and, under
specific conditions, people can be motivated to reassert a specific freedom
that is eliminated or threatened with elimination (Brehm & Brehm, 1981, pp.
29). Four variables mediate the amount of psychological reactance process:
the significance of the free behaviors threatened, expectation that the
individual possessed freedom to begin with, the magnitude of the threat to
the free behavior and implications of the threat to other freedoms (Brehm &
Brehm, 1966). Putting it into a broader context, emotions, actions and
attitudes are all considered as free behavior (Brehm, 1966). Dillard and
Shen (2003) suggested that any overtly persuasive messages might trigger
participants' motivation to reject advocacy (p.3).
Brehm and Brehm (1981) asserted that psychological reactance could not be
measured directly since reactance is a psychological internal statement.
However, they suggested that hypothesizing its existence allows them to
predict behavioral differences (Brehm & Brehm, 1981). Therefore,
researchers are able to observe either the increasing or decreasing status
of psychological reactance by observing the degree of decreasing compliance.
Psychological Reactance Scales
The original assumption regarding psychological reactance (Brehm & Brehm,
1966) was that psychological reactance was a situational-specific variable
rather than an innate individual characteristic (Buboltz, et al, 2002;
Cherulnik & Citrin, 1974; Seibel & Dowd, 2001). However, other researchers
later argued that levels of psychological reactance vary based on
individuals (Dowd, Milne, & White, 1991; Hong & Page, 1989; Buboltz, Jr.,
Woller, & Pepper, 1999) and widely applied it to clinical treatments and
counseling process (Seibel & Dowd, 2001; Buboltz, Jr., Thomas, & Donnell,
2002; Johnson & Buboltz, Jr., 2000, Buboltz, Jr. et al, 1999).
In contrast with the original assertion that psychological reactance could
not be measured directly, other researchers operationalized psychological
reactance as an individual trait. A few scales were developed to measure
psychological reactance (Merze, 1983; Dowd, Milne, & Wise, 1991; Hong &
Page, 1989). Dowd, Pepper, and Seibel (2001) argued that scales related to
reactance enable researchers to relate reactance to personality trait.
Merz (1983), first developed Questionnaire for the Measurement of
Psychological Reactance and it was translated into English by Dowd and his
colleagues. Merz operationalized the notion of psychological reactance by
measuring the degree of defiance, resistance and oppositional behavior
(1983). Merz also reported that psychological reactance was positively
correlated with variables such as autonomy, depression, dominance,
emotional liability, insecurity, nervousness, and self-consciousness.
A few researchers criticized the unreliability of Merz's psychological
reactance scale (Tucker and Byers, 1987; Buboltz Jr., Thomas, and Donnell,
2002; Donnell, Thomas, Buboltz. Jr., 2001). Therefore, Donnell, Thomas, and
Buboltz. Jr. (2001), and Hong and Ostini (1989) argued that psychological
reactance was a multidimensional construct rather a unidimensional
construct. In their reexamination of reactance study, Donnell et al.
concluded that the existing psychological reactance measures were unable to
catch the underlying dimension of psychological reactance (2001). Due to
these results, further modifications of measures were suggested (Donnell et
al., 2001; Hong & Ostini, 1989).
Among all the psychological reactance scales developed by researchers (Hong
& Ostini, 1989; Donnell et al., 2001; Buboltz Jr., et al., 2001; Merz,
198), freedom of choice, resistance of authority and reactance to advice
and recommendations continue to be the major dimensions.
Dillard and Shen (2003) suggested viewing psychological reactance as purely
cognitive and thus, through self-report enables psychological reactance to
be measurable. Cognitive view made psychological reactance to be
operationalized as "conterarguing" (Dillard & Shen, 2003, p.6). In
addition, measurable concept has helped a few researchers to develop the
psychological reactance scale applying widely in career assessment and
Personality patterns related to psychological reactance
Various studies have shown that personality characteristics such as
personal insecurity (Merz, 1983), autonomy, defensiveness, aggressiveness,
dominance, impulsivity, nonaffiliativeness (Dowd & Wallbrown, 1993),
ambitiousness, adventurousness, and nonconformity (Buboltz, Jr. et al.,
1999) have all related to psychological reactance. Moreover, Johnson and
Buboltz, Jr. (2000) indicated that the level of personal individualism
predicts a person's psychological reactance. Dowd et al. (1991) showed that
high-reactant clients scored lower on expectation for change and perceived
problem controllability than low-reactant clients. In addition, Dowd and
Wallbrown (1993) found that highly reactant people can be characterized as
irritable, hostile, lacking warmth and in humanity, and unpredictable. On
the other hand, low reactant people perform more conformity to advice from
therapists (Dowd et al., 1991). Due to the vital optimal level of
psychological reactance, reactance can also be viewed as an important
mediator in human interaction (Donnell, Thomas, Buboltz. Jr., 2001). In
sum, people with the characteristics of psychological reactance are more
ambitious and would prefer activities containing higher autonomy (Buboltz
Psychological Reactance & Rebelliousness
Dillard and Shen (2003) stated that certain messages are mediated by
arousing reactance. Though self-report enables researchers to measure a
person's psychological reactance status and form a cognitive perspective,
reactance might be viewed as an emotion (Dillard & Shen, 2003, p.6). In
line with previous reactance studies, psychological reactance can be linked
to emotions such as hostility, anger and irritation.
As previously mentioned, Dillard and Shen (2003) stated that people might
reject persuasive messages depending on their psychological reactance to
the messages. Bensley and Wu (1991) found that heavy male drinkers would
reject the forceful messages and tend to drink more. Their finding
suggested that psychological reactance shared a similar concept with
rebelliousness in that rebellious people tend to take risks for the sake of
opposing perceived social norms and tend to enjoy being labeled as a
"rebel" (Ferguson, Valenti, & Melwani, 1991; Lee & Ferguson, 2002).
In this study, individuals' psychological reactance is examined in relation
with individuals' rebellious tendency. In addition, due to the
controversies of the instability of the existing psychological reactance
scales, the existing reactance scale was reexamined and refined based on an
exploratory factor analysis.
A total of 1072 individuals aged 12 to 48 participated in this study. The
sample included 44% male (n = 463) and 56% female (n =593). The data set
was collected during three different time periods, summer and fall 2003,
and spring 2004. Approximately, 89% of the sample is college students (n =
932) while teens and other general publics were recruited during summer
2003 (n = 115, 11%).
A self-report survey was administrated to participants at a northwestern
university and its neighboring community. The survey was composed of the
rebelliousness scale (Lee & Ferguson, 2003), risk-taking measures,
participants' alcohol consumption behaviors, consequences of drinking,
original psychological reactance scale (Merz, 1983) and newly proposed
psychological reactance items based on the notion of original psychological
reactance scale. Due to language usage differences presented in the three
psychological reactance questionnaires, some items were modified to update
psychological reactance scales by Merz (1983), Hong and Page (1989), and
Dowd, Milne, and Wise (1991). Note that psychological reactance scales by
Hong and Page (1989), and by Dowd, Milne, and Wise (1991) were modified
from Merz (1983).
In this study, correlations between psychological reactance and risk-taking
tendencies were specifically analyzed. Due to some shared nature with
rebelliousness, psychological reactance has been modified and integrated
into the rebelliousness scale. Items refined from Psychological reactance
scale (Merz, 1983), reactance scale from Dowd, Milne and Wise (1991), and
Hong's Psychological Reactance Scale (Hong & Page, 1989) were added and
Rebellious Tendency Scale
Rebellious tendency scale was developed by Lee and Ferguson (2002). Items
such as "I enjoy doing things that others find dangerous," "I like people
who are partiers," "I like to be the first to try news things among my
friends," "Life without danger would be too dull for me," "I'm unlikely to
do drugs when I party (recoded)," "I sometimes like to do things that are
frightening," "I like wild parties," "I like driving fast," "Having alcohol
is the key to a good party," "I am rebellious," "I don't care what others
think of me," "I like to be the center of attention," and "I often do
things spontaneously" were included. These items were submitted to a
principal component analysis with Oblimin rotation. One component was found
with 12 items (49.4% of variance was explained, Cronbach's a = .87). To
avoid including items which directly ask attitudinal or behavioral
tendencies regarding substance uses, two items were excluded from the
original loading (Lee & Chen, 2003): "Having some alcohol is the key to a
really good party" and "I'm likely to do drugs when I party." In turn, the
summed factor score of the final twelve items was used to create a scale of
Updated Psychological Reactance Scales
The first author and three graduate students in Communication added a few
items based on the notions of psychological reactance. Twelve items such as
"I get very irritated when someone tells me what I cannot do", "Suggestions
and advice often make me want to do the opposite", "I like to see others
going against authority", "In discussions I am easily influenced by others'
opinions", "I don't worry about planning for my future", "I am not afraid
to contradict others' expectations of me", "The best way to get me to do
things is by telling me not to", "It makes me angry when someone points out
something I already know", "I'd like to search for information on how to
make a bomb", "I don't like people who tell me what to do", "I am afraid to
disagree with others", and "I don't mind changing my original plans if
someone wants to do something else" were added.
Two original items "Suggestion and advice often make me want to do the
opposite" and "It makes me angry when someone points out something that I
already know" from psychological reactance scale by Merz (1983) were used.
In addition, six modified psychological reactance items from Merz (1980)
were added in this survey (Table 1).
-- Insert Table 1--
Three items were modified from the Therapeutic Reactance Scale by Dowd,
Milne, and Wise (1991). Original scales such as "It would be better to have
more freedom to do what I want in a job", "I don't mind other people
telling me what to do" and "I enjoy debate with other people" were changed
into "I don't like a job where there are many rules", "I don't mind other
people giving me advice" and "I like to debate with others in online
debates or discussion groups" respectively. At last, one original item
from Psychological Reactance by Hong and Page (1989) "When someone forces
me to do something, I feel like doing the opposite" was changed into "When
someone makes me do something, I feel like doing the opposite."
All these items were submitted to a principal component analysis with
Oblimin rotation. One component was found with 12 items (27% of variance
was explained, Cronbach's a = .82). Please note that two items were loaded
on both scales. Those are; "I don't like people who tell me what to do,"
and " The best way to get me to do things is telling me not to do
things." In sum, the summed factor score of the final twelve items was
used to create a scale of psychological reactance.
Relationship between Rebelliousness and Psychological Reactance
To investigate its relationship, several tests were conducted. First, a
correlational analysis was conducted. As anticipated, there was a strong
correlation between individuals' rebellious tendency and psychological
reactance (r = .69, p < .01).
Second, according to the previous research, gender has been consistently
identified as an important factor influencing rebellious tendencies. As
expected, a strong gender effect was detected (t [1, 1056] = 8.7, p <
.001). The male participants exhibited higher rebellious scores (n = 464,
M = .28, s.d. = .91) than the female participants (n = 594, M = -.22, s.d.
= .91). In addition, the effect of gender on psychological reactance was
also tested and found that the male participants exhibited higher reactance
scores (n = 377, M = .25, s.d. = .95) than the female participants (n =
493, M = -.17, s.d. = .97), t (1, 868) = 6.5, p < .001.
Third, the participants' alcohol consumption pattern and their experience
of negative consequences of alcohol use were asked. The results are the
Participants' Alcohol Consumption. The participants were asked the
following questions and the results from a correlation analysis of these
items with the rebellious scale and the reactance scale is presented in
Table 2. The rebellious scale is more strongly correlated with the items
than the reactance scale.
-- Insert Table 2 --
Participants' experiences of negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
The participants were asked how many times they experienced a negative
consequence within the last month. Twelve items were asked. Based on a
factor analysis (the Principal Component Analysis with Oblimin rotation),
two components were identified. One scale was created out of nine items
loaded on the first component (51% variance was explained, Cronbach's a =
.89) and named as "Experience of Negative Consequences of Alcohol
Consumption." (Table 3)
-- Insert Table 3 --
The other three items loaded on the second component were also treated as
single variables. The results of a correlation analysis are shown in Table
4. Individuals' rebellious tendency was moderately correlated with other
behavioral characteristics of risk-taking. Individuals' rebellious
tendency seems to be a better predictor of alcohol related risky behaviors
than the psychological reactance.
-- Insert Table 4 --
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
In this study, the main focus was to identify a relationship between
individuals' rebellious risk-taking tendency and psychological
reactance. In addition, an attempt was made to revisit existing measures
of psychological reactance and develop a measurement to better capture
individuals' psychological reactance.
The data from this study suggested that even though individuals'
rebellious tendency and psychological reactance share some common
attributes, individuals' rebellious tendency might be a better predictor of
risky behaviors. In addition, an attempt to refine the reactance
measurement was made by introducing and testing that was modified from
existing items as well as new items. The final fifteen items were
identified and suggested as a means by which to measure an individual's
tendency to regain control when they perceive their freedom is restricted.
Understanding target audiences' risk-taking tendencies such as
rebelliousness should be considered in designing effective messages for
getting attention, furthering information processing, and persuasion (Lee &
Ferguson, 2002; Lee & Chen, 2003). In particular, the construct of
rebelliousness has been identified as a useful factor to consider in
substance use research (Lee & Chen, 2003). For example, Lee & Ferguson
(2002) found that different types of health persuasive messages (realistic
fear versus vulgar humor) produced different results, depending on
individuals' rebellious risk-taking tendency. It was suggested that the
traditional method of inducing fear by seriously portraying the
consequences of smoking might not be as effective for targeting highly
rebellious risk-takers. They tend to rebel against the perceived intended
outcome of such messages, particularly when they feel they are being
Ferguson et al. (1991) postulated that this type of risk-taker tends to
react to others rather than to potential rewards from risk taking behaviors
themselves. However, having a reputation as a "rebel" itself might be one
of the rewards associated with their risk-taking behaviors. Therefore,
effective communication with this type of risk-taker must take their unique
characteristics into account. For example, it was suggested that rebellious
risk takers may respond better to a message targeting a significant other
(Ferguson et al, 1991) rather than themselves (Lee & Bichard,
2002). Therefore, communication strategies should be carefully developed
to garner them to feel they are in charge of their decisions and diminish
the probability of triggering one's defensive reaction since they do not
want to be told what to do.
Even though, individuals' psychological reactance appears to be a less
effective tool in predicting their risky behaviors, it is certainly a
useful construct to consider in various different communication
settings. In order to understand how individuals process given health
campaign messages and make decisions regarding to their behaviors, a
careful conceptualization should be accompanied with a careful
operationalization of the construct.
In addition, the rebelliousness scale used in this study was tested in
previous studies, however, future studies need to be conducted to test its
validity. It is very important to be vigorously tested and scrutinized for
practical uses of the scale in the health communication field. Again, it
was argued that different behavioral types of risk-taking should be
considered separately for designing effective communication strategies
because individuals might exhibit different types of drives and reasons for
their behavioral patterns and decision-making (Ferguson, Valenti, &
Melwani, 1991; Lee & Ferguson, 2002). Therefore, the need to develop and
refine a reliable measurement to capture individuals' rebellious tendency
as well as individual psychological reactance was addressed.
There are several limitations that need to be carefully considered. First
of all, even though individuals from various backgrounds were surveyed, the
majority of the sample was college students. Therefore, further evaluation
of the measurement with various populations should be continued. Second,
both rebelliousness and reactance scales were only tested with drinking
related risky behaviors in this study. Therefore, further research should
explore their validity through their relations with other types of risky
behaviors such as unprotected sex, illicit drug use, etc. in addition to
Health campaign designers and professionals are becoming far more
sophisticated in developing strategies to target specific audiences. Now,
new communication technologies make it possible to tailor messages
differently to each individual level (Lee, 2001; Lee & Ferguson, 2002; Lee
& Tedder, 2003; Lee & Tedder, 2004). Therefore, it is important to
understand individual characteristics such as their rebellious tendency and
psychological reactance and how these characteristics interrelated with
their processing of health campaign messages for effective campaign
designs. In this avenue, the effort of developing reliable measurements to
capture individuals unique characteristics should be continued for
developing effective message designs.
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