The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘reactance’

A Horror Movie for Palinites?

Posted by Adam Benforado on January 19, 2011

Despite my love of cinema, I tend to always fall behind on catching the latest movies.

Case in point: during the past weekend, I finally had the opportunity to see The King’s Speech, which my own grandmother watched and wrote me about . . . last year.

As a sort of New Year’s resolution, I’m attempting to be a bit more up-to-date on this front, and, thus, I’m going to dedicate this blog post to a film that hasn’t even been released yet, but that should be of interest to Situationist readers.

What caught my attention about the preview for the film was that it seemed as if it could easily be modified into a Sarah Palin 2012 political advertisement.

In the opening frames, we watch Senate candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) as he first crosses paths with the ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt).  There is clearly an attraction, but, as the film website explains, “just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart.”

Who are these mysterious men?

“[T]he agents of Fate itself—the men of The Adjustment Bureau—who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together.”

As one Adjustment Bureau agent explains, “We are the people who make sure that things happen according to plan.  We monitor the entire world.”

David (er, Matt) is then faced with a momentous decision: “let her go and accept a predetermined path . . . or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her.”

In the trailer, David explains, “All I have are the choices I make, and I choose her,” as the following lines scroll across the screen:

If you believe in free will.

If you believe in chance.

If you believe in choice.

Fight for it.

So . . . yes, perhaps I’m off my rocker (watch the trailer below for yourself), but I think the narrative of the film could have been pieced together straight from Palin’s tweets: (1) Americans are rational actors who can make their own choices and should be allowed to pursue freely their own conceptions of the good; (2) the agents of big government are extremely dangerous and are intent on controlling our environments; (3) Obama’s regulatory state (including the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection) is a paternalistic nightmare; . . . and, of course, (4) we must let our values and guts tell us what is right, and not allow regulators with their misguided “science” and “reason” to direct us (in one of my favorite moments in the trailer, one of the agents of the Adjustment Bureau is heard saying, “Remember we tried to reason with you.”).

Okay, readers, consider yourselves provoked.  What do you think?

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Entertainment, Ideology, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Do NOT Read This Post!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 4, 2008

In their recently published article, The Great Attributional Divide: How Divergent Views of Human Behavior are Shaping Legal Policy,”Situationist contributors Adam Benforado and Jon Hanson described the psychological phenomenon of “reactance” and the way it encourages a dispositionist perspective.    They write:

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Another reason that we are inclined toward dispositionist attributions lies in our desire to see ourselves in self-affirming ways.  We like to believe that we are independent, intelligent consumers of life’s many options—the attitude-driven, reasoning, choice-makers of commercials and Westerns.  Rather than victims of situation, we see ourselves as in control of our destinies—not just humans, but “Marlboro Men” or “Virginia Slims.”

Our desire to maintain that satisfying conception causes us to react strongly whenever we sense that our freedom is being unfairly limited.  Indeed, we often react to perceived constraints on our choices (DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE!) by taking (or suddenly wanting to take) the prohibited option.  Psychologists call this desire to maintain (the perception of) control “reactance”—a tendency that marketers have been exploiting for as long as there have been marketers.   Attempts to restrict an individual’s emotions, attitudes, or behavior often produce a similar “boomerang effect”—that is, an increase in the restricted feelings or behavior.   Although we often enjoy no more than an illusion of control over our situations,  we are strongly motivated to see ourselves in the driver’s seat.  Dispositionism, with its focus on individual choice, puts the wheel in our hand and the brake and accelerator beneath our feet.

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This “forbidden fruit” effect is particularly strong among young adults and adolescents (which is one reason why the tobacco industry is often said to have benefitted from regulations that purported to prevent non-adults from smoking).  Now, a group of celebrities (including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Forest Whitaker, Tobey Maguire, Jamie Foxx, and many more) have attempted to harness the power of “reverse psychology” in the following “Don’t Vote” campaign.

Thanks to Situationist friend, Andrew Perlman, for sending us this video.

For those who have missed it, here’s a copy of the other election-related ad by Sarah Silverman.  This one uses a different persuasive technique — (potentially offensive) humor — as Sarah tells viewers to get their “fat Jewish asses on a plane to Florida” and convince their grandparents to vote for Obama.

Posted in Entertainment, Marketing, Politics, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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