Hey Thoughty2 here.
“Adam was but human… He did not want the apple for the apple’ssake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden.
” wrote Mark Twain.
Now I want you to do something for me, doNOT think of a white bear for the remainder of this video – oh, you’ve already failedhaven’t you? The reason you thought about a white bearwas the exact same reason you clicked on this video.
This same instruction was given to a groupof test participants in the 80s.
They said, for the next several minutes, “whateveryou do, don’t think about a white bear”.
Of course, they all failed too.
For the next several minutes all they couldthink about was a white bear, no matter how hard they tried not to.
Many of them attempted to think of other,random scenarios, picturing themselves on holiday for example, to try to divert theirminds but a white bear always found its way into their thoughts and before they knew it,they were sky diving in Venezuela with a polar bear.
At the end of the study they all admittedthat their attempts to not think of a white bear were entirely futile.
Why do our brains have a natural tendencyto think of or do the exact opposite of what they’re told? Reverse Psychology can be very powerful.
Today the middle and upper class in Europeeat a diet that consists mainly of Kale Chips and Hummus but in the 17th century they atepotatoes.
That’s right, the humble spud, today a Europeanstaple, was, for a long time only eaten by the upper classes and royalty.
The lower class were superstitious of thepotato, they saw it as bland, tasteless and many thought it was poisonous.
But the upper echelons of society saw thepotential of the unassuming brown vegetable and ate it plentifully.
During the period of the French revolutionarywars, the usual food staples in England, which was at the time basically some variation ofa meat pie, was in short supply and England was on the brink of a famine.
So the English government took steps to tryto get the English public to eat more potatoes, which were in plentiful supply.
They went so far as to hand out pamphletsentitled “Hints Respecting the Culture and Use of Potatoes”, but no matter how much theypleaded with the people, they wouldn’t eat potatoes.
The same struggle to make potatoes a normalfood staple was happening across the whole of Europe.
Eventually it took someone to do somethingquite different and not ask people to eat potatoes, but to use reverse psychology.
Enter Frederick the Great of Prussia.
The king of what is now Germany saw greatpotential in the potato as a way to cheaply feed the nation and not rely so heavily onexpensive bread.
So, in 1774 he issued an order to his subjectsto start growing potatoes, to which they replied “The things have neither smell nor taste,not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?” So he concocted a plan, he planted a grand,royal field of potatoes and stationed royal guards to protect the field every day.
The local peasants started to grow suspicious,what food could be so valuable that it requires round-the-clock guard protection.
And, just as Frederick had predicted, withina few days the local thieves were stealing potatoes from the royal plantation and sellingthem at the local market for a high price.
Before long the whole town was eating hisroyal potatoes.
His plan had worked perfectly, because hehad made them forbidden and told people that they can’t have the potatoes, suddenly everyonewanted potatoes.
And so, over the following years the fondnessfor potatoes spread across Europe.
Whether it’s thinking about white bears oreating potatoes, humans love to do what we’re told not to do.
Children are the ultimate victim of reversepsychology.
Tell a kid a hundred times to eat their broccoliand they won’t budge, but tell them they’re not allowed broccoli anymore and suddenlyit’s their favourite food.
But why can our brains be so easily duped? Why can we not resist pushing the red button,why do we always want what we can’t have, whether it be our neighbour’s sports car,or wife? We even do the opposite of what we tell ourselvesto do.
When you’re about to give a speech to a groupof people and you tell yourself to be calm and not to panic the complete opposite happensand you start violently shaking.
It seems at times that our brains are justout to get us.
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So what is the secret behind reverse psychology? It’s all because of a thing called “Reactance”.
Reactance is the concept that we are all afraidto lose our freedom and we will do whatever it takes to hang onto it.
If our freedom is threatened, for exampleif someone takes away our ability to make decisions we react out of fear.
If someone tells us we can’t have fast foodanymore, we instantly crave fast food like never before, because we are reacting outof fear of loosing our freedom.
Reverse psychology works so well because whenyou threaten to take away somebody’s freedom their natural reaction is to go out of theirway to exercise that freedom and prove to you that you’re unable to take it away.
Just take a look at fair Romeo and Juliet.
They first met and liked each other, sure.
But it was only when both their families forbadethem from being together that they fell crazily in love and ended up dying for one-another.
It’s one of the most powerful examples ofreverse psychology in literature.
But the greatest example of reverse psychologyof all time comes from ancient Chinese history.
In the greatest book on war ever written,The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote: “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you areweak”.
During the period of the Three Kingdoms inChina, around 200 AD – the country’s multiple leaders were at war and one such leader ZhugeLiang was known as one of the greatest Chinese strategists of all time.
During the war of the three kingdoms, ZhugeLiang was held up in a fort with only a handful of soldiers.
When his enemy Sima Yi learnt of his locationand heard he had so few men defending his fort.
Sima Yi set off with an army of thousandsof men, to conquer Zhuge Liang and take over his fort but Liang heard about Yi’s campaignbefore he arrived.
Instead of bolting all the doors shut andputting what few soldiers he had along the battlements with bows and arrows to defendthe fort, then hiding away somewhere, he came up with a plan involving a magnificent featof reverse psychology.
Liang ordered all the doors and gates of thefort to be opened up wide.
He ordered his few soldiers to dress up ascivilians and to sweep the grounds inside the fort and the roads outside with brooms.
Liang then sat calmly atop of the fort, lookingout at the approaching army and said not a word but melodically played his Guqin – anancient Chinese instrument that is plucked.
As Yi arrived with his huge army, weaponsin hand, he was greeted with open gates, peasants cleaning the streets and a calm, fearlessLiang sat atop his empty fort, still playing his instrument.
Sensing suspicion Yi instantly thought itwas a trap and that Liang had setup an ambush involving hiding his soldiers in the surroundinghills to circle Yi’s army from behind.
Instead of rushing the empty fort, Yi quicklyordered his men to retreat with great haste, fearing an imminent ambush, an ambush whichof course didn’t exist.
And so, using reverse psychology, Liang hadquelled an otherwise deadly attack.
Liang’s incredible strategy has since cometo be known as “Empty Fort Strategy” and it made its way into the famous Chinese ThirtySix Stratagems as the 32nd stratagem.
From Chinese masters of war to modern dayadvertising, the power of reverse psychology is timeless.
Like this advert for the British Army, thatuses reverse psychology to almost makes you feel guilty for not joining the army.
And my personal favourite, this advert.
For a university degree in Reverse Psychology.
An Amsterdam hotel has perfected the art ofreverse psychology, by branding itself “The worst hotel in the world”.
Hans Brinker Budget Hotel is smack bang inthe centre of Amsterdam and is, by their own accord very cheap, smelly, cold, not too clean,has absolutely no luxuries and is generally a damn awful place to stay.
Online reviews for the hotel include “A busshelter offers the same facilities.
” and “What is that smell? I demand to know what that smell is.
” But instead of trying to improve their standards,they just made these advertising campaigns.
And, well would you believe it, it worked.
Since releasing these brutally honest adsthe hotel’s business is booming.
Hans Brinker’s 511 beds in 127 rooms are nearlyfully occupied all year round.
And yes, it’s still awful.
Reverse psychology has certainly worked outfavourably for Hans Brinker but not so much for another advertiser.
Smoking kills, we all know it, even smokers.
But addiction is a difficult and emotionally-drivenproblem to overcome.
In early 2000, following a treaty signed atthe 2003 World Health Assembly in Geneva, it became the law in most countries that cigaretteand tobacco packaging had to contain a health warning.
Some countries adopted written warnings andothers contained highly graphic pictorial warnings.
In the following years many world governmentsput funds into anti smoking ads on national television.
Such ads are usually highly graphic and usuallyend in the protagonist either developing cancer or erectile dysfunction.
The World Health Organisation were prettypleased with themselves and believed this visceral new advertising would vastly reducethe number of smokers worldwide by using fear to make them quit.
And for a while the world ignorantly believedthat the strategy was working.
But what have we learnt? That the more times you tell somebody theycan’t or shouldn’t do something the more likely they are to do it.
And sure enough, multiple recent studies haveshown that warning labels on smoking products has absolutely no effect on smoking or quittingrates whatsoever.
Moreover a recent study by experts at TelAviv university and New York university concluded that, bizarrely, warning labels on cigarettes,no matter how horrific, actually increase cigarette sales.
Researchers showed various packets of cigarettesto test participants, some had warning labels on, such as “Smoking Kills” and “Smoking CausesCancer” etc.
and some of the packets had no warnings on them at all.
The participants were asked which packetsthey would rather purchase and the vast majority of them chose the packets with warning labels.
There’s something interesting going on here,this has a lot to do with reverse psychology but there’s a bit more to it.
The researchers found out that the test participantsbelieved that the brands that put warning labels on their cigarette packages were perceivedas more honest and trustworthy and so in some strange way, the perceived quality and valueof that brand’s cigarettes went up, in the minds of the participants.
Reverse psychology isn’t just a mental quirk,it’s a tool that many successful people have used, among them Freddie Mercury.
After Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, asix-minute long song, every record company they spoke to said it was too long to be successfuland would never be played on the radio.
So Freddie Mercury gave a copy of the songto his friend and radio DJ, Kenny Everett, as a gift.
Freddie told him never to to play it on air.
Of course Everett did the complete oppositeand played the song on air over 14 times in a single radio slot.
It was soon number one in the UK charts andit went on to grace the number one spot again in 1991 after Mercury’s death.
Thanks for watching.
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