Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 46 Issue 2 (February 2016), Pages 79-139

Economic threat undermines the satisfaction of psychological needs for competence and autonomy (pages 94-104)


During times of macroeconomic instability, the prospect of personal financial deficiency becomes a pervasive concern. This research examined the psychological consequences of contemplating threatening economic futures. In two experiments, we tested whether economic threat undermined the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for competence and autonomy. In Experiment 1, Canadian university students primed with an economic threat (compared with a threat‐neutral topic) reported feeling less competent and autonomous. In Experiment 2, American adults primed with an economic threat reported less competence and autonomy compared to both those primed with (a) a noneconomic threat and (b) a threat‐neutral topic. Participants under economic threat also reported lower well‐being compared with threat‐neutral participants. This effect was mediated by self‐perceived competence and autonomy.

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