Psychological Reactance Theory and COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates: The Roles of Threat Magnitude and Direction of Threat

Lauren A. Kriss, Brian L. Quick, Stephen A. Rains, Juliana L. Barbati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current study examines psychological reactance theory (PRT), focusing on the role of threat directness and threat magnitude in the context of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Students on two college campuses in the United States (N = 374) were informed that their university or the other university (i.e., threat directness manipulation) was considering a vaccinate mandate for the following semester that would or would not include sanctions for noncompliance (i.e., threat magnitude manipulation). Participants experienced significantly greater freedom threat perceptions when the mandate included sanctions compared to when it did not, but freedom threat perception did not differ when the mandate was on their own campus as to the other campus. An interaction effect was also observed in which perceived freedom threat and reactance was greatest among participants receiving an indirect (as opposed to direct) threat with sanctions. Findings are discussed with an emphasis on the theoretical contribution to PRT along with the practical implications for vaccine mandates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-663
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Volume27
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences

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