The phrase was coined by Joseph Jastrow in his book “You can hypnotize yourself” (1918) when referring to the technique of “suggesting the opposite.” He writes, “By encouraging their [persons under hypnotic trance] confusions they may be led to do what you will them to do, but…it is often advisable, in dealing with these negative states, to encourage them at first, and only gradually to reverse the process, and endeavor to lead the patient into the desired positive attitude.”
Since then, reverse psychology has been a popular tool in politics, marketing and behavioral sciences. While reverse psychology can be an effective way to convince someone to do something, the best chance you have of it working is if they are already in a mindset that makes them want to go against what you are suggesting. It doesn’t have much impact when there isn’t any resistance to begin with.
What is reverse psychology example?
Reverse psychology is where the aim is to get someone to do something by suggesting that they shouldn’t. It can also mean trying to influence people’s decision-making by telling them to go in the opposite direction. Reflective of this method, the phrase ‘reverse psychology’ has recently become popular within online circles with implications that it can be used to trick others into doing what you want. This is not always the case though, since most people will understand that your initial request wasn’t deliberately made because you actually wanted them to go against it. It is also important to consider the consequences of using reverse psychology since if someone does end up doing what you want them to do after suggesting they shouldn’t, there could be a fallout and they may feel that you manipulated them (whether this was your intention or not).
A more likely scenario is that people will simply ‘comply with the request’ because it seems less of a hassle. Even if they feel some reluctance, this can be easily overcome by telling them not to feel so bad for going against what they were told in the first place, since you only said they should do something because you didn’t want them to do the opposite. In other words, you’re simply ‘winding them up’ and then letting go of the string.
There is also a third option – they could just feel confused and not know what they should be doing. Obviously, this isn’t going to achieve what you want, but it may stop the person from doing something for fear of being wrong.
Is it wrong to use reverse psychology?
This approach can seem a little bit sneaky, and it could be argued that you are manipulating the other person. However, when used to steer someone in a direction they want to go anyway, or prevent someone from doing something inappropriate or undesirable, there’s nothing wrong with using reverse psychology.
Don’t forget that this method of influencing people isn’t foolproof. In most cases, your target will simply comply with the request because it seems easier than going against everything you initially suggested.
The more likely result is that they may feel some reluctance and try to fight against whatever you are asking them to do (even if it’s something they actually want), or they could end up feeling confused and not doing anything.
The problem is, once you have suggested something that’s the opposite of what you actually want, you can’t just pretend that nothing happened if this outcome occurs. No matter how much you try to turn things around in your favor, the person may still be aware of what initially happened and will not appreciate being toyed with.
There are several ways in which this technique can backfire, particularly if you’re not careful about the way you phrase your suggestions or requests. For example, rather than directly telling someone to behave in a certain way (e.g. ‘Don’t do that’), you could ask them to think about the consequences of taking a particular action.
Since this request is not as direct, it could be interpreted as ‘Do this’ which will mean that the person may end up doing what you do want them to do rather than thinking about whether it would be a good or bad idea. This can happen because they are keen to make you happy or for any other reason.
Also, if someone asks why something isn’t possible and you falsely claim it is, there’s a chance that they’ll go off and try to find a way of making it happen anyway. They may even think about how much easier it would be if they had your help which could put you in a difficult situation.
Is reverse psychology effective?
One reason why reverse psychology seems to work is because of curiosity. If someone sees or hears something that doesn’t make sense, they are naturally going to want to find out more about it. They may not do what you suggest, but they will probably go away and research the topic further.
Another way this method can be employed successfully is by capitalizing on human nature. For example, someone may be very happy with their current situation and lifestyle (so they think) but is always open to the possibility of getting something better if there are opportunities to make this happen.
If you manage to convince them that something better isn’t actually an option (or it might not even exist), there’s a good chance they will go for what they have now without any second thought.
Perhaps most importantly, the reason why reverse psychology can be an effective method of influencing is that it requires people to think about what you’re saying. It may not always require a lot of brainpower but if someone isn’t thinking about something properly then their reasoning may become cloudy and they could end up doing something they wouldn’t usually do.
What’s the verdict?
Reverse psychology can be a useful tool to employ on some occasions, but it is important to know when and how to use it. If you stick with one of the methods outlined above, there should not be any major issues. Just remember that if someone does what you want them to do after telling them not to, they may blame you for it even if that wasn’t your intention.
In conclusion, when applying reverse psychology in marketing, make sure to test it out first before using it on your real audience. There are several ways in which this method can be applied successfully but also several factors to consider. If you’re not careful with how you phrase your copy, it can backfire and cause problems.