Term of Award

Summer 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Karen Naufel

Committee Member 1

Jonathan Friedel

Committee Member 2

Lawrence Locker


Persuasive health messages are frequently advertised throughout the pandemic to decrease the spread of COVID-19 while increasing the likelihood of immunity. However, research demonstrates that persuasive health messages may be ineffective because they have the potential to elicit psychological reactance. Reactance is characterized by a state of unpleasant motivational arousal and often occurs when individuals experience or perceive threats to their freedom, and it can be evoked through controlling language (Frey et al., 2021; Grandpre et al., 2003). Additionally, research has shown that similarity is associated with liking (Cialdini & Trost 1998) and people are often more inclined to comply when a message is delivered by a similar source (Gino et al., 2009). However, research has not tested the extent that controlling language can be mitigated if the source of information is a similar other. The proposed research fills this gap. Specifically, participants will engage in an experiment manipulating controlling language (low, high) and source similarity (similar, dissimilar), and then respond to measures of perceived threat, anger, negative cognitions, attitudes towards the message, and behavioral intentions (measures of reactance).

Research Data and Supplementary Material