chapter  13
Uncontrollability, reactance, and power: Power as a resource to regain control after freedom threats
ByChristina Mühlberger, Eva Jonas, Sandra Sittenthaler
Pages 17

Having control, that is, being able to produce desired outcomes through one’s own actions (e.g., Baumeister, 1999; Pittman & D’Agostino, 1985), is a basic psychological need (Fiske & Dépret, 1996; Pittman & Zeigler, 2007; Skinner, 1995). If individuals are not allowed to act as they wish, their control of their own behaviors and of the desired behaviors’ outcomes is threatened. This is exactly what happens in the case of a freedom threat, i.e., when people are forced to behave in a specific way or not allowed to behave in a desired way. According to reactance theory (Brehm, 1966), people then experience psychological reactance, a motivation to fight for and regain freedom. Imagine Steph, a doctoral student in her second year. During her first year she attended a few conferences and thereby established contact with renowned professors. In her second year, Steph wants to further expand her social network (desired outcome). Thus, she eagerly registers for diverse conferences, workshops, and meetings (own actions). She feels able to achieve her desired outcome through her own actions. Now imagine that her supervisor is not content with Steph attending so many conferences and instead wants Steph to focus on writing articles for her doctoral thesis. Therefore, the supervisor restricts Steph’s freedom to go to conferences, workshops, and meetings during the second year of her doctoral studies. As Steph is not allowed to attend any more conferences, she is not able to achieve her desired outcome of expanding her social network. The supervisor’s prohibition poses a threat to Steph’s freedom to attend conferences and thereby to her control over her desired outcome.