Some people act in ways that provoke surprised or shocked reactions from others, mainly because they enjoy getting those reactions and not because of any inherent desire to perform the action itself. For example, I suspect that this is a primary motivating factor behind the recent Brony phenomenon -- the My Little Pony show itself would probably not attract hords of adult male fans, were it not for the incredulous reactions which the fandom elicits. Is there a word to describe this sort of behavior?

("Provocative" seems off -- it refers to the fact that a reaction is elicited, but not that this is the motivation behind the behavior.)

  • sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, hypocritical
    – lexeme
    Dec 27, 2013 at 6:57
  • Taunting..? You purposefully act in a way to annoy others in a negative way.
    – Eugene T
    Dec 27, 2013 at 6:58
  • @EugeneT Nope, I think this question is focused on some kind of hipocracy.
    – lexeme
    Dec 27, 2013 at 7:01
  • @brick No, I'm not thinking specifically of a case involving hypocrisy.
    – Malper
    Dec 27, 2013 at 7:12
  • The person is often informally called a 'stirrer'. Dec 27, 2013 at 22:16

4 Answers 4


On the internet, this is known as trolling. In other spheres I would say it's just an aggressive form of narcissism.

But, I think you're on the money with provocative:

causing annoyance, anger, or another strong reaction, esp. deliberately.

  • "trolling" seems better than "provocative" -- trolling is always done because other people react, which need not be true of provocative behavior.
    – Malper
    Dec 27, 2013 at 7:14
  • I was thinking about this question some more and now would prefer "antagonistic" as closer to the OP's intent. Jun 26, 2014 at 15:04

The noun form of provocative is provocateur(s). These are folks who could be described as

  • instigators
  • rabble rousers
  • demagogues
  • sowers of discord among brothers
  • troublemakers
  • firebrands
  • gadflies
  • contraries
  • pains in the *ss!

The word I would use is tease. That is someone gets their pleasure of teasing others, and watching their reactions.


Antagonistic? When you antagonize someone you try to get a reaction out of them, but it may be a bit nastier than what you're looking for.

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