What Is Reverse Psychology, And How To Use it?

Last Updated
March 22, 2023
A woman experiencing psychological reactance

What Is It?
How To Use
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Reverse psychology is a sneaky way to get someone to do what you want by suggesting the opposite of what you actually want them to do.

Think of it like a mind trick: you're making the person believe they're making their own choice, but really, you're nudging them in the direction you want.

- They'll suggest the opposite of what they want
- They'll challenge your abilities
- They'll use negative statements
- They'll act indifferent or disinterested
- They'll appeal to your sense of autonomy
- They'll be persistent

- Understand your audience
- Be subtle
- Suggest the opposite
- Use challenges or questions
- Show indifference
- Timing is key
- Monitor your results

Reverse psychology is a technique where you manipulate someone into doing something you want, by placing emphasis on what you don't want. Many scientists coin this technique as "strategic self-anticonformity". This is often a tactic used on children and on adults to manipulate them.

A simplified example will be, if you want a child to do their homework, you might say: "I don't think you should do your homework." But in reality, you want them to do their homework and this gets you your desired outcome. Especially in certain situations, if the person is angry at you and just wants to do the opposite of what you are saying, to be spiteful.

How does reverse psychology work?

Reverse psychology uses the psychological phenomenon of reactance, this is when people don't like being told what to do. They feel as if their sense of freedom is being threatened, so they'll react by doing the opposite. [1]

Note: Not everyone is susceptible to reverse psychology.

A therapist using direct communication to use reverse psychology on a girl

Situations where reverse psychology works

  • Reverse psychology can be used by parents to encourage their kids into doing things they don't want to do.
  • In negotiations where the other party uses reverse psychology as a persuasion tactic to get the stubborn party to budge from their position.
  • Marketers will use reverse psychology to influence customers' decision-making and get them to buy their items.
  • In relationships, where one partner in the relationship uses reverse psychology to influence the other partner to do something they want. (It would actually be better to make direct requests instead, in any relationship) [2]

Examples of reverse psychology in your day-to-day life

  • Asking your child to do the opposite of what you want them to do

Tell your child that vegetables make one strong, but as it seems that they don't want to become big and strong, they don't have to eat vegetables. This advice also usually works because children want to become big and strong like their parents and will often attempt to do the opposite of what they're asked to do.

  • Telling your partner that you don't want them to do something

If you want your partner to take out the trash, you would tell them that you don't want them to do it. This usually works because people usually want to do what they're told not to do.

Fun Fact

Reverse psychology can sometimes undermine trust and security in relationships, potentially hindering the development of a secure attachment style.
  • Doing the opposite of what someone wants you to do

If you realize that someone wants to buy you a drink, you would refuse, and decide to buy yourself a drink instead. This usually works because most people usually do things to prove that they can do what they want.

  • Saying the opposite when dealing with a negative situation

If your friend or parent's haircut ended up being totally wrong, and they are aware of it, but you still complimented them on it, they will likely believe the compliment and think that you actually like their new haircut. This usually works because people tend to believe what they hear more than what they see.

  • Making someone think that they're in control when they're not

If you want your friend to drive you to the airport, you would tell him/her that you will take a taxi and point out that you don't want to complicate their lives. This usually works because people want to be in control and will often do what they're asked not to do.

  • Publicly acting in a way that contradicts their true intentions

This is done strategically (i.e. attempting to get someone else to follow your lead in a certain course of action). This term is adapted from the diamond model of social response, which was later developed into the double diamond model of social response, primarily by researchers Paul R. Nail and Geoff MacDonald.

  • Social Influence

Using reverse psychology in the form of social media can be extremely detrimental and life-threatening to people. Influencers use their followers to do something or try something as if it is cool or hip. This is happening on a daily basis and many examples can be found online of this. [2]

An example of how to use reverse psychology with Squidward

Signs someone is using reverse psychology

  • A person may make unnecessarily critical remarks that seem to be intended to elicit a response.
  • You have the impression that someone is trying to get your attention but won't say it outright.
  • They keep repeating the same idea until you find yourself wanting to do the opposite.
  • They have more to gain if you do the opposite of what they've requested.
  • The ideas that they support, are inconsistent with the decisions they have made in the past.
  • A great example is when someone starts telling you to do something that they usually tell you not to do. [3]
A woman talking to a therapist about people using reverse psychology on her

Reverse Psychology and Personality Types: Who Is More Susceptible?

Different personality types may respond differently to reverse psychology techniques. By understanding these differences, you can tailor your approach to be more effective in influencing the behavior of others.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality

The Five-Factor Model, also known as the "Big Five," is a widely accepted model for understanding personality traits. It includes the following dimensions:

  • Openness to Experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Understanding how these traits interact with reverse psychology can help predict the susceptibility of different personality types.

Openness to Experience

People high in openness tend to be more receptive to new ideas and unconventional approaches. They may be more likely to respond positively to reverse psychology, as they enjoy exploring different perspectives.


Highly conscientious individuals are organized, responsible, and disciplined. They may be less susceptible to reverse psychology, as they prefer to follow rules and adhere to established norms. However, in some cases, appealing to their sense of duty or responsibility could make reverse psychology effective.


Extraverts are outgoing, assertive, and social. They may be more likely to respond to reverse psychology if it appeals to their desire for social approval or helps them maintain a positive self-image.


Agreeable individuals are compassionate and cooperative, and value harmony in relationships. They may be less likely to fall for reverse psychology, as they tend to be more sensitive to manipulation and prefer direct communication.


People high in neuroticism tend to experience negative emotions more frequently and intensely. They may be more susceptible to reverse psychology if it taps into their fears or anxieties, but using this approach could potentially harm the relationship. [5]

A woman and son in counseling to talk about reverse psychology

Tailoring Reverse Psychology to Personality Types: Tips and Strategies

  • Open individuals, present reverse psychology as a novel or intriguing idea.
  • Conscientious individuals, focus on duty, responsibility, or the consequences of not taking action.
  • For extroverts, emphasize social approval or maintain a positive self-image.
  • With agreeable individuals, be cautious and consider using more direct communication instead.
  • For neurotic individuals, be sensitive to their emotional state and avoid exploiting their fears or anxieties.

How to put reverse psychology into practice

  • Before you can use any of these simple reverse psychology tactics, you need to know what your aim is. What do you want the other person to do, think, or feel?
  • Understand the other person. What are their goals? What do they believe in?
  • The way you use reverse psychology depends on the situation and the person you are using reverse psychology on. Think about the other person's personality and behavior and how they will respond when you choose your approach.
  • It works best when the other person is not aware of the fact that you are doing it. If they figure it out, it might not work, and the other person will see it as manipulation.
  • Only use it sometimes. It can have bad repercussions if used too many times or in the wrong way.
  • Evaluate to see if it worked. If it did not work, try something else or rethink about what you want. If it did work, think about why it worked, so you can practice the same tactic in the future. [4]

Note: Refrain from using this manipulation technique on anyone with a mental illness.

An example of reverse psychology

Reverse Psychology in Professional Settings: Applications and Consequences

Using reverse psychology in professional settings can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. In this section, we will explore various applications of reverse psychology in management, team dynamics, and negotiations, along with their potential consequences.


Motivating Employees: Reverse psychology can be used by managers to motivate employees by suggesting that they might not be capable of achieving a certain goal, prompting them to prove their capabilities. This can be particularly effective for individuals who are competitive or have a strong desire for achievement.

Delegating Tasks: Managers can use reverse psychology to encourage team members to take on tasks they might be hesitant to accept. By suggesting that a task may be too challenging or time-consuming, a manager can inspire an employee to demonstrate their competence and take on the responsibility.

Potential Consequences: While reverse psychology may motivate some employees, it can backfire and create resentment or distrust if used excessively or insensitively. It's essential for managers to know their team members well and use this technique sparingly and responsibly.

Fun Fact: In workplace relationships, reverse psychology can lead to confusion and mistrust, negatively affecting team cohesion and productivity.

Team Dynamics

Encouraging Collaboration: In team settings, reverse psychology can be used to prompt members to work together more effectively. By implying that a team might struggle to complete a task or achieve a goal, a leader can inspire members to prove their collective capabilities.

Resolving Conflicts: Reverse psychology can also be employed to resolve conflicts within a team. By suggesting that a disagreement cannot be resolved, team members may feel compelled to find a solution and prove the contrary.

Potential Consequences: If used improperly, reverse psychology can exacerbate conflicts and damage team morale. It's crucial to approach such situations with sensitivity and an understanding of the individuals involved.


Gaining Leverage: Reverse psychology can be a powerful tool in negotiations, as it can make the other party reconsider their position or reveal their true intentions. For example, by implying that you're not interested in a deal, you may prompt the other party to offer better terms to secure your agreement.

Overcoming Objections: When facing objections in negotiations, reverse psychology can be used to challenge the other party's assumptions and encourage them to reconsider their stance. This can be particularly effective when dealing with stubborn or resistant negotiators.

Potential Consequences: While reverse psychology can be advantageous in negotiations, it can also lead to negative outcomes if perceived as manipulative or dishonest. Building trust and maintaining a reputation for integrity is vital in professional settings, so it's essential to use reverse psychology judiciously. [7]

A man discussing the ethical implications of reverse psychology with a therapist

Moral and Ethical Implications of Reverse Psychology: When Is It Inappropriate or Harmful?

Reverse psychology, though potentially effective in influencing others, raises moral and ethical concerns. It's essential to recognize when using this technique may be inappropriate or harmful and to consider the potential consequences of its use.

Manipulation vs. Persuasion

Ethical Boundaries: While persuasion is a natural part of human communication, manipulation crosses ethical boundaries by taking advantage of others for personal gain. Reverse psychology can fall into either category, depending on the intention behind its use and the potential consequences for the person being influenced.

Consent and Autonomy: One of the main ethical concerns with reverse psychology is the potential violation of an individual's autonomy and consent. By covertly influencing someone's decision-making, you may be undermining their ability to make informed choices.

Helpful tip: If you're facing gaslighting or manipulation, online therapy can be beneficial. Therapists can help you understand these tactics, like reverse psychology, and develop strategies to handle them.

Power Dynamics and Vulnerable Populations

The exploitation of Power Imbalances: Using reverse psychology in situations with significant power imbalances, such as between a manager and an employee or a therapist and a client, can be particularly problematic. In these cases, the technique may be perceived as coercive and exploitative.

Vulnerable Individuals: Reverse psychology can be especially harmful when used on vulnerable individuals, such as children, the elderly, or those with mental health issues. In these cases, it's crucial to prioritize the well-being of the person being influenced and avoid using manipulative techniques.

Inappropriate or Harmful Situations

Damaging Relationships: Using reverse psychology in personal or professional relationships can erode trust and damage the bond between individuals. If someone feels manipulated, they may be less likely to confide in or cooperate with the person who used the technique.

Ethical Dilemmas: In some cases, using reverse psychology may involve encouraging someone to engage in unethical or harmful behavior. This can lead to negative consequences for both the individual being influenced and the person employing the technique.

Helpful tip: If you suspect gaslighting, trust your feelings and perceptions. Try not to engage in reverse psychology, as it may escalate manipulation. Seek support from trusted friends or a professional.

Guidelines for Ethical Use of Reverse Psychology

Consider the Intent: Before using reverse psychology, consider your intentions and whether they align with the best interests of the person being influenced. If your goal is to deceive or exploit, it's best to avoid using this technique.

Assess the Potential: Consequences Evaluate the potential consequences of using reverse psychology, including any potential harm or negative outcomes for the person being influenced.

Seek Consent and Maintain Transparency: Whenever possible, seek consent from the person you're attempting to influence and maintain transparency about your intentions.

Respect Autonomy and Personal Boundaries: Respect the autonomy and personal boundaries of the person being influenced, and avoid using reverse psychology in situations where it may be coercive or exploitative. [7]


Reverse psychology is a powerful tool that can be used to influence behavior and motivate others to take action. It is a tactic often utilized in parental guidance, advertising, and more. However, if used excessively or maliciously, it can cause long-term harm to the recipient.

As you move forward with using reverse psychology for whatever purpose you may have, make sure you're doing it in a positive way that won't leave lasting trauma on anyone involved. You can learn more about Gaslighting: A Form of Emotional Abuse That Can Leave Lasting Trauma! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.


What are some situations in which reverse psychology would be useful?

It's useful in many situations, where someone is resistant to change or persuading, such as a parent trying to get a child to do their chores or trying to convince a friend to go out for the night. It can also be used in sales and marketing campaigns.

Can reverse psychology be used to get someone to talk or do something they don’t want to do?

Yes, reverse psychology can be used to get someone to do something they don’t want to do. The goal of the technique is to create or present a situation in such a way that the person feels compelled or motivated to act in a certain way they normally wouldn't.


  1. Wiki: Reverse psychology
  2. Better Help: What Is Reverse Psychology?
  3. LovePanky: Reverse Psychology: What It Is, How It Works, 26 Signs & Secrets to Use It
  4. Effectiviology: Reverse Psychology: Getting People to Do Something By Asking for the Opposite
  5. Research Gate: Five‐Factor Model of Personality
  6. Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams
  7. Research Gate: Do people use reverse psychology? An exploration of strategic self-anticonformity

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Jamie Armstrong
I have a passion for writing. I work as a Senior Marketing Manager for Islomania LLC. I have developed a strong interest in writing articles and website management during my time here. I enjoy both article writing, poetry, and story writing. In my role as a marketing manager, whether I’m writing an article, or a story, or improving other writers’ content, I always try to engage my readers and give them something to think about.
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