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You must stay at home! The impact of commands on behaviours during COVID-19

Krpan, Dario ORCID: 0000-0002-3420-4672 and Dolan, Paul (2022) You must stay at home! The impact of commands on behaviours during COVID-19. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 13 (1). 333 - 346. ISSN 1948-5506

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Identification Number: 10.1177/19485506211005582


“You must stay at home!” This is how the UK Prime Minister announced lockdown in March 2020. Many countries implemented similarly assertive messages. Research, however, suggests that authoritative language can backfire by inciting psychological reactance (i.e., feelings of anger arising from threats to one’s autonomy). In a series of three studies, we therefore tested whether commanding versus control and noncommanding messages influence several cognitive and affective indicators of reactance, intentions to comply with COVID-19 recommendations, and the compliance behavior itself. Although people found commanding messages threatening and felt angry and negative toward them, these messages impacted only intentions, but there was no evidence of behavioral reactance. Overall, our research constitutes the most comprehensive examination of cognitive–affective and behavioral indicators of reactance regarding commands to date and offers new insights into both reactance theory and COVID-19 communication.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2021 14:42
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2021 10:54

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