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Molly: Johnny, I mean what Dr. Cox did was classic reverse psychology. And so is this: [backing up] Behavioral modification can sometimes be brought about through classic conditioning.

(Smiles hopefully as J.D. looks confused)

Molly: Reverse psychology? Nothing? 'Cause that really kills at the psychiatric conferences.

J.D.: I must go to one of those.
Scrubs, "My Old Friend's New Friend"
"If somebody put a big red lever in a hidden cave with 'End Of The World Lever - Do Not Touch' on it, the paint wouldn't have time to dry."
Terry Pratchett, in several Discworld novels.

Don't read this article.

Fine, don't take our advice.

It's really a stupid idea, but some characters will give warnings or orders with the expectation of being disobeyed, and will in fact count on this disobedience. Any character who is told not to go in the basement, stay away from the woods, get out now, etc. ... will do exactly the opposite, often playing right into the hands of the very person who told them what to do/not do. It's really best if you put it out of your mind, since this trope heavily relies on using the pride, perversity, or curiosity of someone else to manipulate them. I'm sure it would be both impossible and impractical to use this as a central tool in a Batman Gambit, especially when you need to make your pawns feel like they are making their own decisions. Sometimes this can overlap with Do Not Do This Cool Thing, by making the forbidden attractive just because it is forbidden.

Super-Trope to:

Is a Sub-Trope of Batman Gambit.

Don't even bother seeing Too Dumb to Live and Genre Blindness. It's not worth comparing to Could Say It, But.... And do not, under any circumstances, take this trope to an extreme, as it may approach Mind Screw.

Feel free to check out Reverse Psychology Backfire, though.


You could see these examples, but I'm telling you it's a waste of time:


Anime And Manga

  • Tenchi Muyo! begins this way. Tenchi has repeatedly been warned by his grandfather that he must never, ever, under any circumstances enter the cave behind their ancestral shrine where a demon was supposedly imprisoned. Go on, guess how the first episode opened...Of course, it's later revealed that this was a case of his grandfather being a Genre Savvy Trickster Mentor, since he knew full well what Tenchi would do and what the likely result would be.
    • He pretty openly goads Tenchi to opening the shrine, as he tells her that he can have the key as soon as he's able to take it from him through combat or trickery, and eventually Tenchi succeeds.
  • "Eruruw is not in that direction. You can't go there." *points straight across a field filled with manure* This is why Aruruw is awesome. (She really isn't in that direction, of course, but the guy asking just called her uncute and is rather rude)
  • In Naruto, Rock Lee decides he's successfully used reverse psychology... on the screen assigning matchups for the preliminary fights for the chunin exams.
  • In an episode of Adventures of Mini Goddess, Skuld has a Big Red Button with a "Do Not Touch" label. Urd and Gan-chan fight over it until she changes the sign to say "Please Touch", at which point they stop. And then Belldandy presses it herself.

Comic Books

  • In the Legion of Super-Heroes "Legends of the Dead Earth" annual, Wildfire is trying to recreate both the Legion and the UP spirit of inter-species cooperation. He doesn't expect his current group of trainees to do it, instead pinning his hopes on their descendents, who will be raised with Legion values. To ensure there are descendents, he tells them they're forbidden to "fraternise".

Film

  • Parodied by the Scooby Doo film, where Sarah Michelle Gellar confuses the heck out of some guy with a chicken who tells her not to go to a haunted house by wondering aloud whether he's using reverse psychology, reverse reverse psychology, reverse reverse reverse psychology, or something else entirely. Upshot: she's going to look for clues there.
  • Don't, a fictional movie trailer included in the film Grindhouse, spoofs the horror movie version of the trope; a narrator repeatedly issues warnings to not go into the haunted house, not look in the basement, etc., while the characters on screen do just that.
  • The song "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins.
    • Mary Poppins owns this trope. She gets herself hired by interviewing her employer and tricks Mr. Banks into taking the kids to work with him by acting like it's his idea.
  • In the Thor movie, Loki pulls this fairly subtly to get Thor to attack Jotunheim.
  • Both the film and book version of A Series of Unfortunate Events tell the audience to go see/read something more pleasant than what they're currently attending.

Literature

  • Discworld:
    • In Witches Abroad, another witch needs Granny Weatherwax's help with a problem, but suspects that Granny will refuse a direct appeal; so she asks Magrat to do it, and strictly forbids Granny to interfere, relying on Granny to stick an interfering nose in where she thinks it isn't wanted.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, the vampire Count Magpyr's forbidding castle is named ... wait for it ... Don'tGoNearThe Castle. It works great, too -- they were always crawling with guests, according to Igor. On the way to confront the Magpyrs the witches find the route is regularly marked by signs of this nature ("Last Chance Not To Go Near The Castle!").
  • In Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore tries to recruit a recalcitrant Slughorn. Just after the latter's interest is finally raised, the headmaster wryly says "I think I know a lost cause when I see it." It works.
  • Used on the protagonist in the second Alex Rider book, Point Blanc. After escaping the titular boarding school using an improvised snowboard (while being shot at by men on snowmobiles), Alex has no desire whatsoever to take part in the imminent raid, but no-one else knows the building's layout. Cue one of the men he trained with in the first book coming to tell him that he's Just a Kid and can't take part. Alex figures it out a few seconds too late.
  • Used by Satan in the Incarnations of Immortality series. He's grown fond of Jehovah (not to be confused with God), and wants to stop the Holocaust that is killing his followers. So he invites Chronos and gloats about how the Nazis are all his plan. Chronos went back in time and prevents Hitler's rise to power, thus saving Jehovah.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, one character argues with Menelaus not to try his mad experiment as if he really wants him to do it.


Live Action TV

  • Battlestar Galactica. Colonel Tigh pulls a brilliant one on Starbuck, whom he has an ongoing feud with. The Ace Pilot is laid up with a knee injury. She has recovered enough to move, but stays in bed anyway.

 Tigh: The Chief wanted me to kick your ass out of bed so you could help figure out that Raider of yours but, clearly, you still need the rest. So take your time, no rush.

Starbuck: Do you actually think that reverse psychology crap is gonna work on me?

Tigh: I really don't care what you think, Lieutenant. All I know is that every day you spend in that bed is another day that I have my opinion of you confirmed. As you were.

  • There is a Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode where Will's little cousin Nicky wants to run away from home, so Will sides with him, giving him all sorts of advice on how to survive in the streets. After this goes on for a while, Nicky announces he's not leaving anymore, "but not because of that reverse psychology stuff you were doing." "Oh? Why then?" "I'm 5 years old, you moron!"
  • In the "Modern Warfare" episode of Community, when the study group need a distraction while pinned down by paintball snipers:

 Jeff: Hey, Pierce! Don't come over here, okay?

Pierce: Screw you! I'm coming over there! [Does so; gets shot].

Theatre

  • In The Golden Apple, when the old men of Angel's Roost are chanting vengeance and Penelope, clinging to Ulysses, pleads with him and reminds him of his promise not to go away, Mother Hare tells him not to go but "stay home and die in bed." This is all the incentive Ulysses needs to agree with the old men and head off to Rhododendron.


Video Games

  • Used to a great extend by GLaDOS in Portal, and also decorated with a huge lampshade.

"I don't want to tell you your business, but if it were me, I'd leave that thing alone.

"Do you think I'm trying to trick you with... reverse psychology? I mean, seriously now."
GLaDOS, doing just that. Or not.
  • Portal 2 contains a segment in which the Big Bad offers you a chance to voluntarily kill yourself rather than face certain doom in his lair. He even goes so far as to point out that you dying now would be his "just desserts", as he would be properly furious that he'd gone to all the trouble to set up his deadly lair only to have you die anticlimactically twenty feet from the door. In fact, he does want you dead by any means possible, but by this point he's so frustrated with your ability to survive his Death Traps that he'll try anything. For bonus laughs, he is very pleasantly surprised if you actually take him up on the offer.
    • It's not the first time he tries that either. After his first outright assassination, if you come back to the area, he tries to get you to jump into a pit with suitably ridiculous "incentives" including your parents, a boy band, and a pony.

 GLaDOS: You really do have brain damage, don't you?!

  • In Ever 17, You says that her mother believes that her father died years ago and searching for clues in LeMU would be a waste of time. Yuubiseiharukana's mother really believed it and really felt it was a waste of time. Yuubiseiakikana's mother is Yuubiseiharukana, and she both knows for a fact that her father is dead and that telling her daughter not to bother investigating is the perfect way to get her to go to LeMU. Who would know better than her how to motivate herself?
  • In one of the Codex entries in Dragon Age 2, a bear tricks a traveller into feeding himself to a dragon by sparing his life as long as he agrees not to go further into the cave, but not telling him why. The traveller is unable to resist his curiosity. Overlaps with Schmuck Bait.
  • In Kingdom O Magic, the hero has to talk a water elemental ito turning a water wheel. One of the dialog choices: (Paraphrased, it's an old game)

 Hero: I'll convince you with reverse psychology!

Elemental: Go ahead! Do your worst!

Hero: (to him/herself) Damn! If he wants me to use reverse psychology, he must be immune. So I can't use that!

  • In Star Control 2, you can try to use reverse psychology with the VUX or the Slylandro probes (it both cases, it does not work). In the latter case, is even lampshaded:

 You: Hmmm.. maybe reverse psychology would work. Er... Die alien scum!

Webcomics

  • Helen in Narbonic is really good at this:

 Artie: You want me to teleport to the moon? How expendable do you think I am?

Helen: I'm sorry, Artie. Sometimes I forget how small and helpless you are.

Artie: Wha - Now, see, this is why I've been filing all those complaints to the ACLU! You constantly assume I can't perform equally simply because of my species! Well I'm sick of it! I can rescue Dave and Mell at least as well as a primate!

Helen: (thinks) I need a new hobby.

  • Used in Looking for Group, when Richard is explicitly told he does not have enough power to open up a portal, since the other characters know he does, but feel that just asking him to do it would probably yield negative results. Since this is Richard we're talking about, they're probably right...

Web Original

  • Phase calls it "Politics 102", but she still uses it to make sure none of her teammates are going to go beat up (or something a lot worse) Solange and the Alphas.
  • Mr Welch is no longer allowed to use a low Charisma stat to get people to do the opposite of what he suggests.
  • The Whitest Kids U' Know want you to know that you should not say that you want to kill the president. It's definitely illegal to say that.

ii. The standard sitcom plot, where one party (usually the parents) attempts to dissuade or encourage another party (usually the kids) by, naturally, doing the opposite. Often begins with one parent reading a child psychology book and going "Hmmm..."

Usually involves second party figuring it out, and either doing exactly what they're told, or pretending to "fall" for it and being totally obnoxious in the other direction.

Examples of Reverse Psychology include:


Film

Literature

  • Witches Abroad has Desiderata Hollow ensure Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax go on a quest with Magrat by adding "Tell those 2 Old Biddies to keep their noses out of this" to her will.
  • Frindle follows a group of children who coin the titular word as a synonym for "pen" and try to promote it despite general mocking. Towards the end, the teacher who banned the use of the word turned out to be using this to promote the word, out of sympathy for the youthful rebels.
  • Played somewhat more seriously, but closer to ii than i, in Ender's Game. The bans on playing computer games for longer than a few hours are never enforced--they're just a way of making the games seem like Forbidden Fruit. Each game is used to evaluate the thought processes of its players.

Live-Action TV

  • Used several times in Frasier, most notably when Frasier persuades Niles to do his show by saying it requires skills Niles doesn't possess. Being a psychiatrist, Niles recognizes what Frasier's doing, but it works anyway.
  • Stephen Colbert often does this in a tongue-and-cheek manner with suggestions, such as stating explicitly that he doesn't want his interviews remixed into Stupid Statement Dance Mixes, especially not with excerpts from the audiobook version of "I Am America (And So Can You!)" mixed in, and particularly not from Chapter 7.
    • "I am not telling you to paste this page [with the word 'Truthiness' included] into the dictionary at your local school and/or library. Are we clear on how I'm not telling you to do that?"
  • Open All Hours: Arkwright's trying to shift some Jamaica ginger cake off his shop's shelves, so as soon as a customer comes through the door he immediately says "I'm sorry, but I can only let you have one!" before implying it's an aphrodisiac, in one of the most bizarre cases of Sex for Product ever.
  • Babylon 5: "John, don't go to Za'ha'dum."
  • Used skillfully in various episodes of Hustle. In one episode Stacy, who has got a job at the bank they're conning, is effortlessly able to manipulate her bosses simply by sounding a note of caution whenever she wants them to take a huge risk.
  • When Top Gear found out that people in Amsterdam had been throwing small, light Smart Cars into rivers, Jeremy worried that people in England might think of doing the same thing to small, light G-Wizzes, and urged them not to... while making very intense eye contact with the camera and nodding a lot.
  • Nick in My Family tries this to get some money for a drive-through Santa's Grotto.
  • The Big Bang Theory - Sheldon's mother tricks Sheldon and Amy into getting back together by talking about how unsuitable for each other they are.

 Leonard: I saw what you did there.

Mrs Cooper: He thinks he's such a smarty-pants. He's no different from any man - you tell 'em not to do something, that's all they wanna do. If I hadn't told my brother Stumpy not to clear out the wood-chipper by hand, we'd still be calling him Edward. Now don't you move, I'll bring over all the food.

Leonard: No, no, no, I can do it. (gets up)

Mrs Cooper: Well, isn't that sweet.

Newspaper Comics

  • This has failed at least once on Garfield, and he does use the line about "reverse reverse psychology."
  • In The Boondocks, after Riley is exposed as having framed Huey with his hairstyle (by doing a driveby shooting as well as apparently ordering a dirty magazine), he manages to trick his grandfather into getting him Cornrows as his punishment (earlier, his grandfather didn't want to get him cornrows). He also tries to do Reverse Psychology in regards to receiving a whuppin' (beating him with a belt), but he was stopped mid-sentence.

Theatre

  • Basically the plot of The Fantasticks, where two neighboring families who adore each other try to fix up their son and daughter by staging a feud and building a wall between their houses.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons poked fun at this kind of Reverse Psychology several times:
    • In "Saturdays of Thunder":

 Homer (reading): Cosby's First Law of Inter-generational Perversity: No matter what you tell your child to do, he will always do the opposite. Huh?

Homer's Brain: Don't you get it!? You gotta use reverse psychology!

Homer: Well, that sounds too complicated.

Homer's Brain: Okay, don't use reverse psychology.

Homer (angry): All right, I will!

    • Chief Wiggum tries his hand when trying to persuade Bart, Skinner and Krabbappel, who have barricaded themselves in the school, to surrender themselves ("Fine, stay in the school! We don't want you to come out!"). It doesn't work ("Okay!").
    • In "Lisa's First Word": After an unsuccessful attempt to physically pull toddler Bart away from his crib, Homer tries the psychological route ("Ok, Marge, let's leave the little baby with his crib."); moments later, when he and Marge have walked away and Bart hasn't budged, he tries to pull Bart away from the crib again.
    • When retired cowboy actor Buck McCoy, upon being wheedled to reprise his role, tells Bart and Lisa, "The last city-slickers to use reverse psychology on me are pushing up daisies!" ("They're dead?" "No, they just got really lousy jobs...")
    • Homer tried to use reverse psychology on a toucan. It didn't work, for precisely the same reasons that it wouldn't work on the toucans in the real world.
    • In Marge on the Lam:

 Bart: You're absolutely right, Dad. We don't need a baby-sitter.

Homer: Wait a minute (Takes out card reading: "Always do opposite of what Bart Says.") You kids do need a baby-sitter!

Bart: (to himself) Blast that infernal card! (to Homer) Hey, Dad. Don't give me that card.

Homer: Here ya go--(Pulls card away)--No!

  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, "A Twist of Ed": Edd gets the idea to use Reverse Psychology to drive away the Kanker sisters by acting as stalker-ish towards the girls as they do towards the boys. It works wonders until the Kankers notice Eddy, who's too nervous to pull it off, and then pretend to run away in fear to draw them closer. "It's a Reverse Reverse Psychology!!"
    • In the same episode, Ed's reaction to reverse psychology is portrayed somewhat akin to a compulsion: to demonstrate, Edd tells him not to eat a pile of dirt. Ed sits there blank-faced for a few seconds, then nervously looks at the dirt before finally going over and eating it.
  • King of the Hill:

 Dale: Reverse Psychology. That'll never work.

Hank: Yes it will.

Dale: Gotcha

  • Riley in The Boondocks tricks Granddad to allow him out of the house so he can visit Gangstalicious in the hospital:

  Riley: See I was like all into Granddad's mental mind. It was like psychology. But in reverse.

  • Shows up in The Fairly Odd Parents. It trumps youthful rebellion!
  • In the South Park episode, "Butt Out", Cartman thinks Kyle is using reverse psychology to trick him into not appearing in an anti-smoking commercial, but Kyle really doesn't want to do it.

 Cartman: Oh, I get it, Kyle. That's your Serbian Jew double bluff. Make me think you don't care about being in the commercial so that maybe I won't either. Ooops. didn't work, did it, Kyle?

Kyle: No, we really want nothing more to do with these people.

Cartman: Sure you don't, Kyle. Oh, and neither do I. Oh, I know what you're gonna say next. You're gonna say, "How about none of us show up tomorrow to do it?" And then I'm supposed to agree so that tomorrow you can waltz in all by yourself and do the commercial. That's Serbian Jew double bluff and it ain't gonna work on me ha ha ha.

  • Johnny Bravo falls for this twice in an episode in which Suzie begs him to take her to the toy store. He catches on, saying that her Reverse Psychology will not work on him. She agrees, which angers Johnny so much that he forcibly takes her just to prove her wrong.

Real Life

  • This bash quote.
  • One person pointed out how some widely hated stuff like Ctrl Alt Del'', Twilight, Justin Bieber, and anything popular became so popular despite such a huge Hatedom because it was unintentionally invoked by the Hatedom itself. The quote "The more you hate it, the stronger it gets" refers to this action in practice where someone hears about a work from the Hatedom or Hate Dumb, then decides to try it out, only to experience Critical Backlash or find it's just as bad as they say. The publisher still wins in the end because they either earned a new customer or still got someone to buy something when they didn't even fall into the target demographic.
  • When the Hatedom is even louder than the fandom, it can actually be the cause of its popularity. For example, if it weren't for all the parodies mocking "Friday", no one would have ever heard of Rebecca Black.
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