Reactance

People of all ages generally prefer to have as much freedom as possible in determining their own choices or behaviors. When individuals feel that their actions are being unfairly limited, they often attempt to restore freedom by directly contradicting or opposing the rule that threatened their freedom. This reaction is often referred as “reactance” by psychologists.

At this point, I want to include my personal account. When I was a child, my parents used to strictly limit my computer time. Their reasons are completely understandable - it harms my eyes and it keeps me from concentrating. However, the stricter my parents were about computers, the more enthusiastic I became about those chunks of matals. As a result, I would sneak over the living room and use computers at night when my parents were asleep or I would simply go to my friends’ houses and use the computers there. Generally, parents would conclude these sorts of reactions of their children as rebellious, but it is, in fact, a typical scenario for Reactance. The mechanism behind it is actually quite simple. As a child, I felt that my freedom of playing computers was deprived, so I had the impulsion to resist and restore the freedom.

And actually, not only children, it is very general that adults also demonstrate the behaviors of reactance. Here is an example. Recently, the government of our city passed a law that banned a certain kind of soap. There was an ingredient inside the soap which was harmful to the environment, so stores were not allowed to sell the soaps anymore. Keep in mind that the ingredient had no effect whatsover on the soap’s ability to clean things. None. But people found out about the upcoming restriction and got upset. They thought they should be able to buy whatever soap they wanted. And as a result, a week before the law wnt into effect, people went and bought a whole lot of this particular soap, way more than they would have in another circumstance.

So this phenomenon of Reactance might make the case difficult when we are trying to offer suggestions to the others because if they feel like we are making them do something - we are trying to control them- they react poorly to it. And a lot of times what happens is that people go ahead and do the opposite.