In social psychology, the boomerang effect refers to consumer behavior essay unintended consequences of an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead. When weak arguments are paired with a negative source.
When weak or unclear persuasion leads the recipient to believe the communicator is trying to convince them of a different position than what the communicator intends. When the persuasion triggers aggression or unalleviated emotional arousal. When the communication adds to the recipient’s knowledge of the norms and increases their conformity. When non-conformity to their own group results in feelings of guilt or social punishment.
When the communicator’s position is too far from the recipient’s position and thus produces a “contrast” effect and thus enhances their original attitudes. Later in 1957, Hovland, Sherif and Harvey further discussed the necessity of understanding these unintended attitude changes in persuasion communication and suggested possible approaches for analysis via underlying motivational processes, psychophysical stimuli, as well as ego-involving verbal material. Jack Brehm and Arthur Cohen were among the first to provide theoretical explanations. Jack Brehm first raised attention to the phenomenon a fait accompli that might conceivably create dissonance if an event has led to the opposite behavior predicted at a prior point. He conducted an experiment to examine the behaviors of eighth graders eating a disliked vegetable.
About half of them were told that their parents would be informed on the vegetable they ate. Brehm applied Brehm’s reactance theory to explain the boomerang effect. They argued that when a person thinks that his freedom to support a position on attitude issue is eliminated, the psychological reactance will be aroused and then he consequently moves his attitudinal position in a way so as to restore the lost freedom. Jack Brehm and Sharon Brehm later developed psychological reactance theory and discussed its applications. The dissonance theory by Leon Festinger has thrived the progress of social psychology research in the 1960s as it is not confined to the prediction of intended influence but can support almost all sub fields of psychology studies.
According to Cohen, dissonance theory can provide not only an explanation, but also a prediction of both the intended and the unintended influence of persuasion communication on attitudinal change. In his experiment, he presented factors that can lead to a boomerang effect, while suggesting a broader view of the unintended consequences than simply the case of a response to attempted attitude change. Cohen’s study on boomerang effect has broadened the scope of persuasive communication from merely the recipient’s reaction to the persuasive message to the communicator’s attempt to influence the target. Dissonance theory suggests that the basic issue is under what conditions a person strengthens his original attitude as a way of reducing some attitudinal inconsistency. In other words, the dissonance can be reduced by becoming more extreme in the original position, thereby increasing the proportion of cognition supporting the initial stand and decreasing the proportion of dissonant cognition.
Researchers applied Heider’s attribution theory to explain why it would occur. For example, Skowronski, Carlston, Mae, and Crawford demonstrated association-based effects in their study on spontaneous trait transference. Wendlandt and Scharafer studied the resistance of consumers against loyalty programs encountered in relationship marketing. Researchers have reported that some public health interventions have produced effects opposite to those intended in health communication such as smoking and alcohol consumption behaviors, and thus have employed various methods to study them under different contexts. Ringold argued that some consumer’s negative reactions on alcoholic beverage warnings and education efforts can be explained concisely by Brehm’s psychological reactance theory. Mann and Hill investigated the case of litter control and showed that the combination of different positive influence strategies could actually create boomerang effect and decrease the amount of appropriate disposal of waste.
Schwartz and Howard discussed the occurrence of boomerang effects in helping as they found out the presence of certain factors presumed to activate norms favoring helping actually result in decreasing helping. They identified three related forms of such boomerang effect in helping behavior. Liotta attempted to understand policy decisions and future choices driven by a blurring of concerns that involve state-centric security and human security. She suggested that a boomerang effect occurs in the area in which excessive focus on one aspect of security at the expense or detriment of the other is a poor balancing of ends and means in a changing security environment and instead we should focus on both national and human security.