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Don’t You Say it that Way! Experimental Evidence that Controlling Voices Elicit Defiance

Weinstein, Netta and Vansteenkiste, Maarten and Paulmann, Silke (2020) 'Don’t You Say it that Way! Experimental Evidence that Controlling Voices Elicit Defiance.' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 88. p. 103949. ISSN 0022-1031

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Motivational messages can be communicated in a controlling or pressuring way, or alternatively, speakers can support listeners’ sense of choice and self-initiation. Despite this being a key aspect of daily life, little is known about the outcomes of different motivational tones on listeners’ experiences. In three experiments, we tested the extent to which a controlling – rather than an autonomy-supportive – tone of voice elicited defiance, a tense desire to do the exact opposite of what motivators are asking and hoping for. Study 1 found evidence that motivational speakers using a controlling tone were perceived as more pressuring than supportive and, through these perceptions, they elicited defiant reactions from listeners. Study 2 replicated this effect and identified a perceived controlling style to be the primary predictor of defiance, even when accounting for the reduced warmth and increased power communicated by speakers using controlling tone of voice. In a final study, we observed that both semantics (i.e., words) and prosody (i.e., tone of voice) independently communicate controlling versus autonomy-supportive messages and, through doing so, elicit defiant reactions. Yet, when used in combination – likely the most typical way that motivators communicate control – they elicited the most defiance from listeners. Findings are discussed in the context of developmental, organizational, and social literatures which are concerned with how listeners can be best motivated to act.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: motivation; self-determination theory; defiance; control
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2020 10:12
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:09

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