Reverse psychology is a technique involving the advocacy 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: the opposite of what is suggested. The idea of reverse psychology was originally introduced in 1970 by the German psychologists, Adorno and Horkheimer. The theory was that people will say, do, or believe the exact opposite of what you want them to. They tested this theory and found it to be entirely correct. 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. The one being manipulated is usually unaware of what is really going on.
Reverse Psychology is a method of persuasion that is related to the Reactance Theory and the Ironic Process Theory. The two theories help to better understand the fundamentals of reverse psychology and how to be an effective persuader. Reactance theory assumes there are “free behaviors” individuals perceive and can take part in at any given moment. For a behavior to be free, the individual must have the relevant physical and psychological abilities to partake in it, and must know they can engage in it at the moment, or in the near future. Ironic process theory refers to the psychological process whereby deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to surface.
I first related a scientific law to this psychological phenomenon in my chemistry class. In that class, my teacher taught me chemical equilibrium and I learnt a principle called Le Chatelier’s Principle, which indicated that “if a chemical system at equilibrium experiences a change in concentration, temperature, volume, or partial pressure, then the equilibrium shifts to counteract the imposed change and a new equilibrium is established”. Unexpectedly yet unsurprisingly, I did discover some interesting evidence. First came physics: the Lenz’s Law, friction force, the inductive reactance of coils…Evidence also lied in biology, such as important balances of human body (water-salt balance, thermoregulation, blood sugar regulation…) and of ecological populations (external and internal balances). All the examples I found can be described in the same way: a system receives some imposed changes; then, some of its elements function, rebelling against such changes. Even though the whole process has nothing to do with human mind, it is in amazing accordance with reverse psychology; therefore, in my opinion, such scientific laws and phenomena should be considered the expressions of reverse psychology, at least in a broad sense.
But what bothers me is that, we still enjoy our life, unconcerned about the crimes we have done, simply because we keep an idea that “reverse psychology” helps nature counteract everything imposed on it: nothing will become abnormal! Of course, I don’t deny the scientific fact that some of the harm we cause can be counteracted by the reverse psychology of the nature, but I really suspect that as situations get worse, the nature will start to take revenge on us, obeying it’s different reverse psychology. At that time, can we succeed rebelling against the nature by using our reverse psychology?