Reverse psychology is a technique that involves the assertion of a behavior or belief that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what is actually required. Reverse psychology relies on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, where a person has a negative emotional reaction to being persuaded, and as a result, chooses the option that is being advocated against.
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It may work especially well on people who are resistant by nature, while direct requests work best for people who are compliant. The one being manipulated is usually unaware of what is really going on.
Reverse psychology is a technique that is often used on children because of their high tendency to respond with reactance and restore threatened freedom of action. Some parents feel that the best strategy is to use reverse psychology by telling children to stay in the house when the intent of the parent is to want them to go outside and play.
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Questions have however been raised regarding such an approach when it is more than just instrumental, in the sense that reverse psychology simply implies a clever manipulation of the misbehaving child. It can fall under several different psychological influence techniques and is hence sometimes referred to as psychological reactance, the aroused state that follows after freedom is threatened or eliminated.
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