The Boomerang Effect: A Synthesis of Findings and a Preliminary Theoretical Framework
Communicative messages are often constructed strategically. In many cases, the creators of such messages strive to curtail specifi c anti-social or unhealthy attitudes and behaviors held by the target audience. However, these messages are not always successful in achieving the intended effect. Messages with a specifi c intent can backfi re and cause an increase in the unhealthy or anti-social attitude or behavior targeted for change. We present a review of fi ndings that have resulted in boomerang effects, broadly defi ned. An analysis of theoretical mechanisms for the effect eventuates in the proposal of two distinct paths to the boomerang. One path predicts that message receivers will process harmful elements in a message at the expense of those that were intended. The other path predicts that receivers will process the message as intended, but then resist complying with it. Finally, we offer a preliminary theoretical framework of boomerang effects.