Publication details [#63335]

Byrne, Sahara, Sherri Jean Katz and Alyssa Irene Kent. 2017. Mitigating the Perception of Threat to Freedom through Abstraction and Distance. Communication Research 44 (7) : 1046–1069.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
SAGE Publications


This inquiry explored theoretical relationships between key concepts in psychological reactance theory and construal level theory. Through a 3 × 2 × 2 experiment (n = 155), it manipulates (1) how abstractly or concretely participants are processing a message, (2) the psychological distance to the message, and (3) whether or not the message restricts choice. Dependent measures cover perceptions of threat to freedom and message effectiveness. Results display that raising abstraction and/or distance can temper the perception of threat to freedom that is experienced when a message limits choice. Furthermore, this process has a subsequent impact on message effectiveness. As the first inquiry to overpoise the perception of threat to freedom in the context of construal level theory, this experiment advances understanding of key theoretical relationships. Strategies for the design of successful persuasive messages are debated.