Archive for March 8th, 2015

March 8, 2015

Boomerang Effect


In social psychology, the boomerang effect refers to the unintended consequences of an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead. It is sometimes referred to as ‘the theory of psychological reactance,’ stating that attempts to restrict a person’s freedom often produce an ‘anticonformity boomerang effect.’ The tactic of reverse psychology, which is a deliberate exploitation of an anticipated boomerang effect, involves one’s attempt of feigning a desire for an outcome opposite to that of the truly desired one, such that the prospect’s resistance will work in the direction that the exploiter actually desires.

The first study on the subject in 1953 noted that it is more likely under certain conditions: When weak arguments are paired with a negative source; When weak or unclear persuasion leads the recipient to believe the communicator is trying to convince them of a different position than what the communicator intends; When the persuasion triggers aggression or unalleviated emotional arousal; When the communication adds to the recipient’s knowledge of the norms and increases their conformity; When non-conformity to their own group results in feelings of guilt or social punishment; and When the communicator’s position is too far from the recipient’s position and thus produces a ‘contrast’ effect and thus enhances their original attitudes.

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