Date of Graduation

5-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Scott Eidelman

Committee Member

Denise Beike

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Veilleux

Keywords

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, Reactance, Reactionism

Abstract

Subtle long-term societal changes, whether political, economic, or cultural, can be perceived as threats to personal freedoms and cause reactance (Brehm, 1966). Instead of rationalizing and accepting changing societal dynamics, I assert that some people compensate by reframing the past in ways that legitimize and perpetuate the reactant anger: reactionism. Reactance theory is predicated on the perception that the barrier to freedom is not self-inflicted, thus people should not perceive responsibility for the loss of freedom (Brehm, 1966). Additionally, the perception of threat may be driven in part, or at least enhanced, by perceiving others as having access to restricted freedoms, privileges, or entitlements: relative deprivation (Crosby, 1976). Lastly, longevity bias (Eidelman & Crandall, 2014) predicts that longer-term deprivation may increase perceived legitimacy of threats to freedom thereby increasing reactionism, whereas reactance should diminish in the face of evidence that the threat is intractable (Laurin, Kay, & Fitzsimons, 2012). To test these predictions, I conducted two studies using Mechanical Turk Workers. In Study 1, I used a minimal group paradigm to test a three way interaction between the three aforementioned causal factors (responsibility, deprivation, longevity). I predicted that the highest levels of reactionism would depend on low perceived responsibility, high perceived deprivation, and longer-term threats. I found no support for primary predictions, but exploratory analysis suggests that anger does explain the link between motivation and reactionism. In Study 2, I used an ideographic approach to isolate and test the effect of relative deprivation as a driver of reactionism, and also tested the potential ideological independence of reactionism (i.e., both self-identified liberals and conservatives might experience a lust for the past when faced with long-term threats). Results suggest support for predictions that deprivation does drive reactionism, and that liberals and conservatives are equally likely to find the past attractive when feeling deprived.

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