Skip to content

Reverse psychology


We often see how some people seek different ways of persuasion to achieve their goals. If we talk about techniques to persuade, reverse psychology is one of the most used.

We generally use reverse psychology to get a subject to say something we want, by telling them the opposite of what is really wanted.

What is reverse psychology?

Reverse psychology is a persuasion technique based on the psychological phenomenon of reactance (emotional reaction that shows contradiction). In psychological reactance, an individual presents a negative and contrary emotional response in reaction to being persuaded, therefore, he chooses the opposite option to the one he is defending.

Those who use reverse psychology defend and express a false liking for a belief or behavior . These beliefs and behaviors are contrary to what you are really defending.

How does reverse psychology work in the human mind?

This technique works in humans because none of us like to be told what to do, which is why we often tend to do the opposite of what we are being pressured to do , simply because we feel that our freedom is in danger and we need show our autonomy – one of the needs that drive human motivation -.

Reverse psychology can become a toxic habit if it is used improperly and for inappropriate purposes, therefore, you must be very careful when using this persuasion technique, since it can be seen as a  form of manipulation .

When to use reverse psychology?

Reverse psychology can be taken as a form of manipulation, but sometimes it is necessary to use it.

It is commonly used with children who want to express their independence and want to rebel against their parents. For example, a mother might tell her child who does not want to go to bed or does not want to go to school: “I think you shouldn’t go to school anymore” or, “I think you shouldn’t sleep anymore,” using the technique of reverse psychology. The child, confused by the mother’s exclamation, does the opposite of what she expresses and decides to go to bed or, decides to want to go to school to affirm his own ability to make decisions.

A more subtle version of reverse psychology can be used with teenagers . The adolescent generally tries to defy the rules of his parents and not look like them in the least. In an attempt to challenge his parents, without wanting to obey their wishes, he can try to do the opposite of what they say, therefore, in these cases you have to be very careful.

You may also be interested in:   Types of psychotherapy

Adolescents go through a series of hormonal, physical, and emotional changes. It is normal for your emotions to run high. They should not feel compelled to do things they do not want, because they will try to contradict them and this could be dangerous for themselves. Parents should use tools like reverse psychology to get their children to stop challenging behaviors.

If we stop to think … most of the time we are under the power of reverse psychology.  This can be hidden in a conversation, in our work or school environment, and even when we go to the supermarket, since reverse psychology is also used as a marketing tool.

In marketing, using reverse psychology can make consumers want to buy something else, convincing them that the item is so good that the seller himself does not want the consumer to buy it.

Reactance theory

In 1982, after several investigations, Wilson and Lassiter carried out a famous study to demonstrate how reverse psychology works, what was later called the Reactance Theory.

The research was based on creating a desire in children for a toy that was initially considered unattractive.

The procedure was as follows:

The researchers observed children playing with different toys, allowing them to identify a toy that was left almost unused.

They then divided the children into two groups -A and B-. Group A was allowed to play with any toy they wanted and Group B was allowed to play with all the toys except the toy that hardly anyone had used. Later both groups were able to play with the same toy. 

It was then observed that both groups wanted to play with this toy that initially no one had considered. The same experiment was tested in adults, but with other objects.

The conclusion of the experiment was as follows:  when people are prohibited from using a certain object, it becomes more desirable. The same is true in any situation that involves a person feeling obligated or feeling that their freedom is at risk.


 | Website

Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *