Do you all know the story of the green frog that acted in opposition to its mother‘s words? Perhaps because of this fable, we often refer to people who act in defiance as “rebellious people.” We usually call it “reactance effect” in psychology. The term “reactance” is borrowed from a physics term that refers to the resistance of electricity. The more resistance you receive, the greater the repulsion, and the more rebellious you are. Since the reactance effect manifests in everyone, men and women of all ages, companies sometimes use this psychological phenomenon in marketing. Let us look at the examples of reactance effects that one can easily encounter in daily life.
First, I will introduce the green frog effect in the novel. We can often think of Romeo and Juliet. “Romeo and Juliet” refers to a phenomenon in which the stronger the parents oppose the relationship, the stronger the lovers have feelings of love for each other. Experts say that if Romeo and Juliet‘s parents had seen through the psychology of the green frog and sat on the sidelines, their relationships may have broken up after a trivial situation. Furthermore, the reactance effect is hidden in a scene in the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The main character Tom is forced to paint the fence. When he was struggling with laziness, he saw his friend Ben passing by. Tom pretended that the thing he was doing was very interestingand lied to Ben, who teased him, by saying, “I‘ll never give you anything so interesting.” Ben, who was tricked by Tom, begged, ”Let me do it, too,” and Tom reluctantly pretended to yield and left the work to Ben. It is a clever use of the reactance effect. Another example is a case used in marketing. As soon as the word “close to deadline” appears on television, an extreme sense of crisis is created in the minds of viewers, and they reach for the phone without hesitation. Companies throw a kind of bait that the scarcity of products is increasing, and consumers across the country, whose judgment has been blurred due to anxiety, urgently decide about purchasing products. Moreover, research shows that the click rate of banner advertisements increased when most of them inadvertently put the phrase, ”Don‘t click!”, and that Haitai Confectionery‘s gum advertisement enjoyed explosive popularity by stimulating teenagers, who lined up in stores for hours.
gum advertisement enjoyed explosive popularity by stimulating teenagers, who lined up in stores for hours. The reactance effect that frequently appears in everyday life may trap us. For example, if you are scolded to study while preparing for an important exam, your will to study may decrease. As a result, you get poor grades, and you will have to bear the results entirely. In order to prevent this from happening again, it is very important to try to restrain yourself without getting involved in the reactance effect. We must strive not to be misled through the deception of the psychological illusion of the moment by keeping in mind the values that we ultimately aim for in life, such as freedom, independence, and autonomy. Still, if you develop a habit of thinking about the results when you defy the odds, you will not be harmed by the reactance effect.
[Department of Psychology, 22, Sungkyunkwan University]