What is Psychological Reactance?
Psychological reactance is a cognitive bias that describes the extreme reactions human beings experience when we feel as though we are being pushed towards doing something or as though our freedom to make our own choices is being threatened.
Reactance is a psychological defence mechanism that we utilise more or less subconsciously in order to try and get back our freedom. We become “motivationally aroused”, meaning we’re flooded with an excess of righteous motivation that leads us to fight for those freedoms.
This can lead to two different kinds of behaviour. On the one hand, reactance can make us refuse to do a task is forced upon us: for instance, when a brand wants us to buy a product at all costs. On the other hand, this defence mechanism can also motivate us to desire something which seems inaccessible.
When digital marketers launch a campaign or design a website, they have to make sure not to cause psychological reactance in their users. They should not force them to do anything like buying a mandatory warranty for a product when they don’t want to.
Moreover, intensive marketing campaigns, especially the ones which use spams, can easily overload consumers and make them have a bad image of the marketed product. A study has also show that advertising popups have a counterproductive impact on users who seeks to avoid them.
Reactance is a psychological effect that digital marketers have to be aware of because it can lead to a decrease in conversion rates. Offering several choices to the consumers and not forcing them to adopt a certain kind of behaviour is a good way to avoid reactance.