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This study extends psychological reactance theory by examining denial of a public health threat and resistance toward media sharing as two novel types of freedom restoration. Participants (N = 220) were randomly assigned to watch a video advocating COVID-19 guidelines and completed an online survey assessing corresponding perceptions and behavioral intentions. Results of structural equation modeling supported the two-step model of reactance: greater perceived freedom threat was related to greater reactance, which in turn was linked to lower intentions to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, lower intentions to share the video with one’s online social network, and greater denial of COVID-19 as a public health threat. Implications for psychological reactance theory and health campaign design are discussed.


This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Communication Research Reports. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.


Taylor & Francis

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Friday, September 29, 2023