Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 56 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Mitch Earleywine

Committee Members

Julia Hormes, Drew Anderson


craving, marijuana, Psychological Reactance Theory, reactance, Psychological reactance, Marijuana, Marijuana abuse, Compulsive behavior

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Psychological Reactance Theory (Brehm, 1966) asserts that people experience reactance (a retaliatory motivational state characterized by negative affect and resistant attitudes) when they perceive their autonomy is threatened. Reactance may lead to “boomerang effects”, where the individual is drawn toward the restricted object or behavior. Anti-marijuana (MJ) messages designed to discourage use might heighten reactance and inadvertently lead to greater craving for MJ and stronger intentions to use. The current online experiment determined that a message discouraging use of MJ evoked greater reactance in student and community member participants than a harm-reduction message. Additionally, reactance was associated with participants’ indirect (e.g., craving and attitudes) and direct (e.g., intent to use MJ and comply) attempts to restore their behavioral freedoms. Across both samples and conditions, individuals who experienced reactance expressed less favorable attitudes toward the advocated behavior, as well as higher MJ craving on a Visual Analog Scale. An interaction between reactance and condition predicted MJ attitudes. Among the student sample, individuals in the experimental condition who experienced high (versus low) reactance expressed more favorable MJ attitudes. Students in the control condition who experienced high (versus low) reactance expressed less favorable MJ attitudes, which may be an effect of cognitive dissonance in their attempts to comply with the message. Lastly, reactance predicted intent to use MJ and lower likelihood of compliance. These findings support applications of reactance theory in the MJ prevention and treatment literature. As more states legalize MJ for medical or recreational purposes, it is important to disseminate harm reduction messages that minimize reactance and MJ-related problems. Reactance-induced craving may have particular relevance in a court-ordered treatment setting.