Psychological reactance in response to perceived behavioral freedom threats

Neuro Usability Insight #13

“Psychological reactance is a motivational force that may arise when ones freedom is threatened”

– Jack Brehm

According to the theory of reactance, we arrive into a state of resistance as soon as we feel our freedom of action is threatened, restricted or eliminated:

  • The more important a free behavior is to a person, the greater the effect of the subsequent resistance.
  • The greater the proportion of freedom is threatened or eliminated, the greater will be the total level or reactance.
  • The loss of a single free behavior, may be an implication of a related threat or removal of other free behaviors now or in the future.


  • Assure people you are not trying to threaten their freedom by using the ‘But You Are Free’ principle for example. Tell people they are free to choose and make their on decision. Research shows that if you remind people that they may say no, they will eventually say yes more often.
  • Make sure all the options you offer are in the same size, so website visitors have less feeling that a certain choice is imposed.


neuro usability example 13

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