Publications · February 10, 2022

New paper: Reactance to Anti-Texting & Driving Messages

Our new study led by @CourtneyLScherr is out in Risk Analysis! We compared the effectiveness of message formats in AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. Testimonials outperformed accident stories in terms of reducing intentions to not text & drive.

Here is the abstract:

Psychological reactance theory posits individuals seek to restore freedom when threatened. Communication scholars have hypothesized persuasive messages can constitute threats to freedom. The current study engages questions about the potential for different forms of narratives in public service announcements (PSAs) to trigger freedom threats by examining responses to a PSA campaign that utilized three forms of narrative (celebrity testimonials, peer testimonials, and accident stories) to decrease adolescent texting and driving intentions. Participants (N = 214) watched anti-texting and driving narratives, and completed measures of threat to freedom, anger, negative cognition, and attitudes/intentions toward texting/driving. Compared to celebrity/peer testimonial PSAs, accident stories triggered increased anger and, indirectly, decreased intentions to drive safely. The results also suggest the need for continued examination of the best way to model psychological reactance theory, and the value of further research explicating anger as a mechanism of message effects.