The focus of this blog is on the concept of reactance, which is the concept that people will sometimes act in spite of a norm or rule rather than conform to it in an effort to maintain their individuality and freedom of choice. Such people sometimes feel that a norm or standardized behavior threatens their ability to decide for themselves what they can and can’t do, and thus rebel against it so as to be their own person.
This concept reminded me of a roommate that I recently had named James. He was very much a person who did not like to do, think, or believe things just because other people are doing so. In fact, with James it was to the point that he would sometimes go against something simply because it seemed to him that everyone else was doing it, even if for no other reason! The example that quickly comes to mind is in regards to the 2012 Republican Party Nomination, in which Mitt Romney competed with several other candidates to become his party’s presidential nominee. In Utah Valley, most republicans favored Romney over the other candidates, which has been said by many to be because he shares the LDS religious values that most people in the area hold. Whether or not this is true, James, who himself is LDS, agreed with this assessment. He saw this as being a bad reason for supporting a political candidate, and feels strongly that candidates should be supported based on politics, not religion. A fair assessment, in my view. What was fascinating to me, however, is that James himself did not seem to base his assessment of Romney purely on politics, as his political philosophy would dictate, but seemed to have a strong bias against him because of Romney’s popularity that was perceived as being due to his religion. In short, James had a distaste for Romney because of everyone else’s positive attitude toward him!
I know James pretty well, and could see that James’ dislike for Romney was at least partly motivated as an effort to not be part of the crowd. He thought the majority of his community was behaving naively, and he didn’t want to be just one of the masses. James ended up supporting one of the less popular candidates who never gained much momentum among voters.