Defensive Reactions to Threatening Health Messages: Alternative Structures and Next Questions

James Price Dillard, Eric Meczkowski, Chun Yang


Defensive reactions offer an explanation for why people reject persuasive messages. Surprisingly, little research has focused on the basic question of how they are structured with regard to one another. Understanding this would enable more informed theorizing. Using data from two studies (N = 849 and N = 311), we tested four possible structures via confirmatory factor analysis, frequency analysis, and latent profile analysis. Results indicated that defensive reactions are best conceptualized as several related concepts that are positively correlated but cannot be reduced to a single phenomenon. Having addressed the structure issue empirically, we conclude with a series of questions that may guide efforts to explicate the concept known as defensive reactions.


defensive reactions, defensive processing, health, persuasion, Ebola, tanning

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