[♪ INTRO] Hey,
you know all those chores that you probably have to do?
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Yeah, they’re not important.
You should probably just forget about them.
I don’t know if you actually feel any more motivated now…
but reverse psychology is the idea
that you can persuade someone to do something
by telling them not to do it.
It might seem like something that only works in cartoons,
like a big red button that says “DO NOT PUSH.”
But researchers have studied reverse psychology and it does seem to have an effect
on real people in certain situations.
When scientists talk about reverse psychology, they focus on something called reactance.
You know that “you can’t tell me whatto do!” feeling?
This idea was first proposed in 1966,
in a paper on psychological reactance theory that
synthesized a lot of thoughts and researchabout this internal process.
The author suggested that
when we’re given instructions to do a particular thing,
we feel our freedom of choice becoming restricted.
For example, on your own, you can choose to do whatever you want
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— watch a movie, go to the park, eat a corndog…
But when you’re told to do something specific,
your freedom to choose other things feels like it’s more limited.
Psychologically, that can be uncomfortable.
And that discomfort can motivate you to fight
back to regain that freedom of choice.
So you might disobey. Like,
“No Mom, I’m not going to cleanmy room.
I’m going to, probably sort my Magic: TheGathering cards!”
If we are talking about me back in a highschool.
Even if you didn’t even want to sort yourMagic: The Gathering cards,
more options lead to less discomfort.
Of course, reverse psychology isn’t justa thing for rebellious kids.
The research is mixed on whether younger or older people
might be more susceptible to stronger reactance,
and it’s tricky to compare ages because of other life factors.
But psychologists do know that people of all ages experience reactance,
and in lots of situations
— from taking advice from a friend,
to listening to a public health message.
For example, when the US drinking age
was legally raised to 21 in the 1980s,
psychologists noted behavioral changes between college students of different ages.
One survey looked at 3,375 college students during the academic year between 1987 and 1988.
And they found that 81 % of the students who were younger than 21 drank,
versus 75 % of students who were 21 and over.
Underage students also reportedly drank moreheavily.
24 % were considered more likely to
make risky decisions or to be heavy drinkers —
basically, having a lot of drinks fairly often.
Only 15% of legal drinkers were in this category.
You wouldn’t expect such a drastic differencewithout some cause.
And sure, there are a lot of factors that
go into the decision to drink.
But the researchers suggest that this trend was partially
because students were reacting to limited freedom,
to re-establish a sense that they could choose whether to drink or not.
Another survey looked at 2,142 students from10 schools in 1990.
And they saw significant differences in alcohol use if people were 21 or not,
but not other drug use.
The researchers say that further supports the idea
of reactance, because the changing drinking age
was a big deal to behavioral freedom.
The kicker is, reactance can cause people to go
against lots of best interests.
Even ignoring medical treatment plans fromdoctors.
A 2014 study that looked at depressed patients found
a strong link between high levels of reactance and refusal to take medications.
119 psychiatric outpatients being treated for depression
were asked to fill out a number of questionnaires,
assessing their psychological reactance,
how in control they felt, self-efficacy,
and how well they were adhering to the medications they’d been prescribed.
And their responses showed a distinct negative correlation between reactance and medication adherence.
In other words, stronger reactance meant they followed their treatment plan less.
The authors of the study concluded
that it might be helpful for mental health professionals
to find ways to communicate with patients that avoid creating high levels of reactance.
One strategy could be giving patients more tools to make decisions,
instead of explicitlytelling them to do or think something.
For example, Motivational Enhancement Therapyemphasizes patients’ freedom of choice.
And these kinds of therapies are often used to treat cases
of drug abuse or alcoholism.
Rather than a therapist pushing a particular choice, like,
“ stop taking all those drugs, dude, ”
the therapist and patient work through the pros and cons
of each approach to the issue.
This way, the patient hopefully feels less limited,
and reactance is less likely.
Ideally, they’re more likely to carefully weigh all the strategies and
choose to take steps towards recovery.
We’ve all heard about this,
you have to make people think it was their idea.
Reactance is just one of many factors that
affects how likely someone is to take advice
— it’s not a surefire way to persuadeanyone.
But if you’re feeling lucky with a stubborn nephew,
who knows, maybe a little reverse psychology will do the trick.
Thank you for watching this episode of ScishowPsych!
If you enjoyed this video, definitely don’t leave a comment,
and don’t you dare, don’t you dare subscribe!
[♪ OUTRO ]