Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Reverse Psychology Works


Lots More Information

Author's Note: How Reverse Psychology Works

Researching and writing this article reminded me of my childhood, and the reverse psychology my older (and much-adored) sister would regularly employ on me. Every Saturday, one of us was in charge of cleaning the upper level of our home, while the other girl took the main level. Our mom let us decide who took which floor. The upper level was smaller, so less to clean. I preferred it, so did my sister.

When Saturday rolled around, Sue would say something like, "I really want the downstairs today. I hate cleaning the bathroom [upstairs]." I knew that meant she really wanted the upstairs, as did I, so I would readily agree to the arrangement. But then she would start talking about all of the reasons cleaning the upstairs was a drudge, and how she was so glad she had the downstairs today.

Even though I knew exactly what she was doing — employing reverse psychology so I would let her clean the upstairs without a fight — she made cleaning the main level sound so appealing I'd always capitulate She would grudgingly agree to switch, then laugh at me as she sprinted upstairs to clean the area she really wanted all along. To this day I don't know why I couldn't resist switching, when I knew she was using reverse psychology on me.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Foreman, DM. "The ethical use of paradoxical interventions in psychotherapy." Journal of Medical Ethics. December 1990. (Oct. 23, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1375912/?page=1
  • Howes, Ryan. "Cool Intervention #8: Paradoxical Interventions." Psychology Today. Jan. 23, 2010. (Oct. 23, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-8-paradoxical-interventions
  • Kelly, Anita. "Using Reverse Psychology on Your Spouse." Psychology Today. Aug. 21, 2010. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight/201008/using-reverse-psychology-your-spouse
  • Loewen, Stanley. "Using Reverse Psychology Effectively." HealthGuidance. (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15949/1/Using-Reverse-Psychology-Effectively.html
  • Michalowicz, Michael. "6 Ways Reverse Psychology Can Help You Close Sales." American Express. March 17, 2014. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/6-ways-reverse-psychology-can-help-you-close-sales/
  • Online Parenting Coach. "Using Reverse Psychology as a Parenting Strategy." (Oct. 22, 2015) http://www.onlineparentingcoach.com/2013/10/using-reverse-psychology-as-parenting.html
  • Panaccione, Vicki. "Ways to Change Your Children's Behavior." Better Parenting Institute. Jan. 8, 2011. (Oct. 22, 2015) http://www.betterparentinginstitute.com/Better-Parenting/parenting-child-raising-skills/ways-to-change-your-childrens-behavior/
  • Pantalon, Michael. "Do You Use 'Reverse Psychology'? Stop Right Now!" Psychology Today. April 8, 2011. (Oct. 20, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-influence/201104/do-you-use-reverse-psychology-stop-right-now
  • PsyBlog. "When Does Reverse Psychology Work?" (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/06/when-does-reverse-psychology-work.php
  • Raymond, Dr. Jeanette, psychologist, Email interview. (Oct. 23, 2015)
  • Straker, David. "Reverse Psychology." Changing Minds. (Oct. 22, 2015) http://changingminds.org/techniques/general/more_methods/reverse_psychology.htm
  • WebMD. "Study: Teen Antismoking Ads Backfiring." Oct. 31, 2006. (Oct. 20, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/news/20061031/study-teen-antismoking-ads-backfiring

More to Explore