A case for directives: Strategies for enhancing clarity while mitigating reactance
Persuasive appeals that are direct and explicit are easier to understand than appeals that are indirect and implicit (Bessarabova et al. Human Communication Research, 39, 339–364, 2013; Gardner and Leshner Health Communication, 31, 738–751, 2016; Miller et al. Human Communication Research, 33, 219–240, 2007). Unfortunately, as psychological reactance theory (PRT; Brehm 1966) contends, directive messages are often met with resistance due to the likelihood of their threatening a receiver’s perceived freedom and autonomy. In response, reactance researchers have undertaken the task of identifying strategies that attempt to utilize the strengths of directives (e.g., clarity) while mitigating the occurrence of reactance. In this article, we review these strategies and argue for the merits of direct and explicit language applied to pro-social and health related contexts. We conclude by examining strategies that use reactance as a persuasive tactic rather than an outcome to be avoided.
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