Consider the following situations

  • You are walking along a narrow ledge overlooking a void. You know you should not look down but .. you do
  • You have an annoying little morsel of food stuck between your teeth. You know very well that trying to prise it loose with your tongue is a futile effort. But you still do it...

I am in the process of putting the finishing touches to a game where the natural tendency of the player to perform actions that will result in scoring points will in fact result in a smaller win. Everything in the game play push the player to force an early win with a low score.

I would like to review any studies of such phenomena in psychology so I can leverage a more value into the overall player experience. Reactance comes close to describing what the player is naturally pushed to do but not quite... . Are there any other effects of the same ilk that might come closer? If so, are there any good studies of what drives/amplifies these effects?


You may wish to look at Steindl, et al. (2015).

This paper presents an overview of research into Reactance that has been done since Miron and Brehm's 40 years review (2006) of all research since Brehm first proposed reactance theory (1966).


Brehm J. W. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Miron A. M. & Brehm J. W. (2006). Reactance theory – 40 years later. Zeitschrift Für Sozialpsychologie/Journal of Social Psychology, 37(1), 9-18. https://doi.org/10.1024/0044-3514.37.1.9

Steindl, C., Jonas, E., Sittenthaler, S., Traut-Mattausch, E., & Greenberg, J. L. (2015). Understanding psychological reactance: New developments and findings. Zeitschrift fur Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 223(4), 205-214. https://doi.org/10.1027/2151-2604/a000222


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