Top 9 Examples of Reverse Psychology in History

“Reverse psychology”, here is a very vague and very boring term that does not make you want to read at all. BUT WAIT A LITTLE BEFORE GOING AWAY. The synonym of this weird set of words is none other than… Manipulation! Basically, it’s like asking someone to do the opposite of what you want them to do, and in a spirit of contradiction, they end up doing exactly what you expect them to do. You understood ? Basically, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you tell your crush to “don’t talk to me anymore” so that they’ll talk to you every two minutes. So, now that you know, go. Do not read this top. Don’t be curious. Don’t feed your culture, it’s a big thing.

1. The potatoes of King Frederic II of Prussia

We are in 1756, in Prussia. The king is looking for a way to put an end to the famine from which his people are suffering. His solution: potatoes. Lots of potatoes. Entire fields are planted all over the country. Not dumb, would you tell me? Problem: the inhabitants are not really confident with this weird thing, which grows in the ground and which does not have much taste. Action, reaction: the king places guards around all the crops, to protect the potatoes as one would protect a treasure (but leaving the thieves to do it at night)! As a result, everyone started planting and eating them. King of Prussia 1 – 0 starvation.

Be careful, this legend actually exists in the majority of countries where the potato was introduced. In the same way, we can hear this ruse attributed to the tsars of Russia or the kings of France.

2. Emperor Anastasius, before the riots in Byzantium

Beginning of the 6th century, Byzantine Empire. Emperor Anastasius deposes the Patriarch of Chalcedon and replaces him with a Monophysite. The empire, already shaken by scenes of violence, experienced new riots and assassination attempts against the Monophysites. Faced with a Constantinople on fire and bloodshed, the emperor had a reaction that astonished everyone: he did not brandish his arms, did not execute anyone. He goes down, in mourning dress, without imperial insignia, in the middle of the Hippodrome, and offers to resign. Right away. Deep down, he knows perfectly well what he is doing, sure that no one will dare to challenge him. But the trick works: the pacifist approach defuses the situation and the riots end. Alright yeah.

3. The “Empty Fort Strategy” in China

In China, the Empty Fort Strategy is the 32nd of the 36 Chinese stratagems. The trap is simple: use reverse psychology to trick the enemy into believing that a place devoid of ambushes is full of them. Result: he beat a retreat, without even the Chinese army having deployed any means! Malinx, the lynx! We find this technique in several historical passages of the country: in 195, during a battle between the warlord Cao Cao and his rival, Lü Bu: Cao Cao, who had only a thousand men against 10,000 on the other side, wins using this trap. Same for the Battle of the Han River in 219, for example.

4. The “Empty Fort Strategy”, in Japan

Yes, even if it is a Chinese stratagem, the Japanese neighbors were inspired by it and also used the strategy of the empty fort. Only difference: it happens much later. In 1572. According to many traditions, during the Sengoku period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the last of the three unifiers of Japan, used the technique during the Mikatagahara battle. As one of his rivals has wiped out the majority of his army, he retreats to his fortress with very few men, but orders the gates left wide open. When the enemy arrives in front, and realizes that he can enter without any obstacle, he finds it suspicious, thinks of a big ambush, and turns around. In reality, no trap was set. If he had entered, it would have taken just a few minutes to defeat Ieyasu.

Beware, the authenticity of this story is disputed by some, as it appears to be copied directly from Zhuge Liang’s story.

5. Zhuge Liang, du coup

Inevitably, if we accuse the previous story of having copied this one, you will not be surprised that the two scenarios are almost identical! In the Chinese historical novel The Three Kingdoms, author Luo Guanzhong also talks about this empty fort strategy. In Xicheng, there are less than 2,500 soldiers. Everything cooked, therefore, for the troops of the Wei Kingdom which arrive with 150,000 men! But when they discover the city gate open, and the famous military tactician, Zhuge Liang, calmly playing the zither with two children at his side on the top of the wall, they fear a terrible ambush and turn back. Masterstroke, as in the previous story!

6. Reverse Psychology in the Old Testament

In the First Book of Kings (3, 16-28), a somewhat gory story, using reverse psychology, is told: it is the “Judgment of Solomon”. Two women fight over the same child, each claiming to be the mother of the newborn. To decide between them, the king decides to use reverse psychology: he gives the order to cut the child in two with a sword, and to divide it equally between the two women. Faced with this declaration, the real mother throws herself at the feet of the king, imploring him to give the child to the other woman, but not to harm him. The fake mother is OK with the idea of ​​sharing (bitch). Thus, King Solomon returns the child to its progenitor. He never really intended to kill this baby, but expected that this threat would make the mother react. Reverse psychology.

7. Reverse psychology used by Caesar

While the Roman Emperor installs his sweet Cleopatra as Queen of Egypt, he must return to Rome to put an end to the mutiny that four of his legions of veterans are engaged in outside the capital. The latter await their leave and the salary promised by Jules before the battle of Pharsale (48 BC). When Caesar presents himself to the troops, he knows he needs his men, especially to take care of Pompey’s allies who have gathered 14 legions in North Africa, but that he will never raise enough funds to pay them. . No worries, he plays the reverse psychology card and asks the troops what they expect of him. He then declares to give leave (in the sense of “dismissal”) to all those who want it, thus implying that, despite their 15 years of service, they were not irreplaceable. Surprised that Caesar could do without them, the soldiers then began to beg him to keep them and send them to North Africa to fight for him. An impressive manipulation trick: the emperor put an end to the mutinies and remobilized his soldiers, without spending a single sestertius.

8. Reverse psychology on stage…

As you know, we never wish “good luck” to an actor about to go on stage, but say “shit”. This tradition dates back to the 19th century, when spectators traveled to the theater by horse-drawn carriage. In fact, the forecourts were riddled with droppings. To say “shit” was to wish that a lot of poo (and therefore, a lot of spectators) would be observable in front of the establishment. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. According to an article France Inter, there is another theory: to say “shit” is to practice reverse psychology. We wish good, success and success to the artist, but we use an antonym, an unsympathetic and encouraging word to make it happen. We say the opposite of what we want, so that what we want will happen. CQFD.

9. …and even in plays!

Precisely, in Tartuffe, by Molière. Remember, among the main characters of the play: Orgon, his wife Elmire and Tartuffe, a vagrant who presents himself as being pious, and who is welcomed by the couple. Orgon’s family does not smell of Tartuffe at all and decides to set a trap for him. They make the protagonist admit his desire for Orgon’s wife, hoping that the husband will immediately drive him out of his house. Problem: when the trap closes, Damis, son of Orgon and Elmire, who surprises Tartuffe flirting with his mother, freaks out and reports him to his father. This is where Tartuffe uses reverse psychology by stating: ” Yes, my brother, I am a villain, a culprit. A wretched sinner full of iniquity“. Orgon is then certain that the liar in the story is not poor Tartuffe, but his son. Result: it’s the poor kid who gets banned, while Tartuffe can calmly continue to fuck his host’s girl. Class.

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