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Reverse Psychology Backfire

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Ask for a nuclear missile, that'll work!
Andy: I think it's wonderful that you want to spend more time with your family even though it means letting 25 years of experience and hard work in the corporate world go to waste while we eat up our savings. I'm behind you 100 percent.
Roger: Thanks, sweetie. Now I know it was the right decision.
Andy: [thinking] Boy, when reverse psychology backfires, it really backfires.

A character tries Reverse Psychology on another. Unfortunately, the subject is either smart enough to see through the laughably blunt ruse, or Too Dumb to Fool. Either way, the subject does just what the would-be psychologist didn't want them to do - and on their own request too.

(Please do not use this for examples where Reverse Psychology simply does not work. Or rather, do use it for them. Or... Oh, forget it.)


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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • In A Goofy Movie, when trying to convince Max to go on the fishing trip, Goofy resorts to using reverse psychology, pitifully talking about how he's going to do everything "all alone." Max's response is to shrug and say "I guess so."

  • In Discworld's Men at Arms, Vetinari tries to use reverse psychology to get Vimes to work on a politically sensitive case; he does this by absolutely forbidding Vimes from working on it. This almost completely backfires, with Vimes going through a Heroic BSoD and drinking himself to near-death. He would have worked on the case tirelessly without Vetinari's interference, giving Vetinari a shockingly out-of-character Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. To Vetinari's credit, he almost immediately realizes he pushed Vimes too far when Vimes fails to punch the wall on his way out of the office.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Ducky Tie", Barney makes a bet with Marshall and Lily where he gets to touch Lily's boobs if he can successfully perform Teppenyaki (the cooking style of the restaurant they're eating in). He then talks about a school that teaches the style in Hoboken, making them worry that he'll win the bet. Barney then compromises with seeing her boobs, but not touching them, in the alley behind the restaurant. Marshall then assumes that because Barney gave in to the compromise too easily, that he really isn't an expert at Teppenyaki, and was just trying to psyche them out so he could see Lily's boobs. Cue the next scene, where Barney indeed proves himself to be an expert at the cooking style. The only reason he lost was because Lily flashed her boobs to distract him from the cooking, causing him to lose focus.
  • In the I Love Lucy episode "Stage Fright", Ethel tries reverse psychology on Little Ricky, who is reluctant to play his drums. After a moment, she comes out of his room.
    Lucy: Did it work?
    Ethel: Well, sort of. I said, "Little Ricky, you don't want to play those nasty old drums, do you?" and he said, "No."
  • In the Get Some In! episode "End of Basic Training", the RAF recruits are being assigned to new posts after their basic training has finished. After seeing his three friends get assigned against their will to a nursing course, Teddy boy Jakey Smith decides to tell the Squadron Leader making the assignments that he really wants to study nursing, assuming that his "request" will also be ignored. To his horror, the Squadron Leader is delighted, as he had Jakey in mind for nursing all along.
  • Community:
    • Double Subverted in the first episode. To try and manipulate Professor Duncan into getting him the answers for every test in his classes, and thus being able to coast his way through his studies, Jeff tries to pull reverse psychology on Duncan. Except that Duncan is a psychology professor, and can instantly see what Jeff is trying to do. Except that Jeff is very manipulative and very unscrupulous, and ends up managing to sucker Duncan into doing his bidding anyway. Except that, as it turns out, much to Jeff's astonishment Duncan actually didn't do what he wanted, and tricked him.
    • In "Debate 109" Annie tries to get Jeff to not quit the debate team by saying he probably couldn't beat rival City College if he tried. After sarcastically responding that he would study harder than ever, he then tells Annie that the obvious ploy won't work on him. He only agrees to work hard after the rival debaters insult Annie in front of him.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin writes to Santa Claus that he really doesn't want any gifts this Christmas, just love and peace among people. Hobbes's opinion of this reverse psychology gambit: "Kind of risky, don't you think?" Calvin throws the letter away.
  • Jon once tries to keep Garfield away from the sofa by asking him to sharpen his claws on it. It does not work. Garfield calls it "reverse reverse psychology."
  • FoxTrot:
    • Andy Fox tries to get Roger to get back to work after he quit his job because Jason busted his chin by acting as though she supports his decision. Unfortunately for her, Roger seemed to think her support was genuine.
    • And in another strip, Jason tries this to convince Andy to buy another computer. When it fails, he grumbles that "Reverse psychology must have been invented by a parent."
    • Another strip had Jason and Peter arguing over which movie to rent. Peter tries to pull the Bugs Bunny "Duck Season, Rabbit Season" trick, and says the name of the movie Jason wants, with the idea that Jason will then reflexively argue for Peter's movie. Instead, Jason simply says, "Oh good, we agree."
    • And another (sort of):
      Andy: Roger, money is pretty tight this month. Don't get me anything expensive for my birthday, okay?
      Roger: Okay. (leaves)

    Video Games 
  • GLaDOS from Portal tries this a lot. Unfortunately she doesn't know much about the human psyche, and her intentions are very, very transparent.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Strong Bad Email "stupid stuff", Strong Bad tried to get Homestar to say something intelligent so he could get some "grumblecakes" from his weekly e-mail sender, Kevin *grumbles*. After putting him in a lab coat and pursuing him further has failed so far, Strong Bad attempts to ask Homestar a question so stupid, he would have to respond intelligently. It turns out, however, that Homestar had made his own bet with Kevin *grumbles* to get Strong Bad to say something stupid, leading to Homestar getting the grumblecakes instead.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Sidekicks Assemble" takes this to I Know You Know I Know levels. There's two islands that need to be searched for Ra's al Ghul's base; when Batman states that one is a more likely location and the other is probably a decoy, Robin assumes that Batman's using reverse psychology and decides to check the "decoy" island. After Robin leaves, Batman says that he knew Robin would expect reverse psychology, so he was completely honest about the two islands. Only when they reach the islands Batman finds that his island was the decoy, and Robin ends up finding Ra's' base.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy did a whole episode about this. The Eds try to hit on the Kanker sisters in an effort to keep them at bay. The Kankers counter with "reverse reverse psychology". This is a special case because the reverse psychology was working perfectly, up until the point where the Kankers noticed how nervous Eddy was and catch on to the trick.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "Sweets And Sour Marge", Homer tries using reverse psychology on the toucan that's stolen his map. It doesn't work, and the toucan flies away. "D'oh!"
    • He tried the same thing on Bart much earlier in "Saturdays of Thunder" after reading Bill Cosby's Fatherhood.
    • Both Bart and Homer try this on each other when Bart doesn't want to go to on a field trip, and Homer doesn't want to take him. Bart tells Homer he wants to go, and Homer tells Bart he'd love to chaperone. Cue a "D'oh!" from both of them.
    • In "Lisa's First Word", when Marge is pregnant with Lisa, Bart does not want to give up his crib to the new baby. Homer decides to try this by telling Marge that they will leave "the baby alone with his crib", they walk away, but Bart doesn't even budge. Homer then runs in a second later to try and pry Bart away from the crib.
  • In the Goofy short "Fathers are People", Goof is trying to get his son to pick up his toys, and the narrator suggests reverse psychology.
    Goofy: Now, Junior, don't you pick up a single, solitary one of those toys.
    Junior: All right, I won't.
    Goofy: That's a good... Huh?