Reverse psychology is a technique involving the assertion of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what actually is desired. This technique relies on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, in which a person has a negative emotional reaction to being persuaded, and thus chooses the option which is being advocated against. This may work especially well on a person who is resistant by nature, while direct requests works best for people who are compliant. The one being manipulated is usually unaware of what is really going on.
Susan Fowler, an author writes “Beware that such strategies [of reverse psychology] can backfire. Children can sense manipulation a mile away.” She instead recommends leading by example.
The psychology professor John Gottman advises against using reverse psychology on teens, with the presumption that they will rebel, stating that “such strategies are confusing, manipulative, dishonest, and they rarely work”.
Reverse psychology is often used on children due to their high tendency to respond with reactance, a desire to restore threatened freedom of action. Some parents feel that the best strategy is sometimes “reverse psychology”: telling children to stay in the house when you really want them to choose to go outside and play.[failed verification] Questions have however been raised about such an approach when it is more than merely instrumental, in the sense that “reverse psychology implies a clever manipulation of the misbehaving child” and nothing more.[vague]