Attitudinal Reactance: Another Response to Influence Attempts in Websites

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The use of behavioural change systems in providing interventions for people is common in this present era of information technology. Many people depend on these systems for many reasons like safe driving, healthy food consumption, energy conservation, etc. Some of these systems have been successful in making people change positively while a larger percentage have not been successful due to many issues that were not addressed during the development of such systems. One of them is psychological reactance, a motivational state that is aroused when a person’s freedom is threatened or eliminated. It has major focus restoring any freedom that has been threatened. This forms the motivation for this work and it starts with a brief study of the theory of psychological reactance with a new view of accessing it from perceived usability perspective. To study reactance in people, a survey was conducted. It focussed on accessing reactance through attitudes to forced compliance in a persuasive website in the context of meal-planning. Results from this study showed that participants with high freedom text had better attitude to the website in terms of anger and perceived usability than participants with low-freedom text. This work confirmed the social agency proposition that the presence of social cues in a multimedia message can stimulate the social interaction pattern in people’s learning. Once this social interaction pattern is initiated, there is a high possibility for pupils to act as if they are interacting with another individual. Therefore, to some degree, social convention of human-to-human interaction sets in as participants with high freedom message had a lower anger score than participants with high freedom plus social message.

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