View random article

What Is Reverse Psychology?

Reverse psychology is based upon the psychological phenomenon of "reactance" or the negative emotional response following persuasion. Reverse psychology involves the act of motivating a subject to do something by instructing, persuading, or manipulating the person to do the precise opposite. Reverse psychology requires the ability to predict or gauge a subject's behavior and then use whatever means necessary to push the subject to react in the complete opposite of what is expected. Reverse psychology works by truly knowing an individual's subconscious personality, particularly children, narcissists, stubborn or headstrong individuals, those with a Type A personality, those lacking psychological understanding, and those who have an overinflated sense of self.

Reverse psychology is often dangerous, particularly if the subject's conscious mind is aware of the manipulations behind your actions. Reverse psychology destroys trust and depletes self confidence. Reverse psychology can also leave the subject feeling inadequate or targeted. Reverse psychology only works, with children especially, when the subject believes what you are telling them, as in what you're saying isn't just to motivate them. Reverse psychology is most effective when the subject is aware of the actions he or she needs to take to reach the outcome you request or suggest.

The most famous incidence of reverse psychology in literature is within the pages of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Mark Antony employs reverse psychology to motivate a riot caused by the town's residence.

Featured in Life