Is there a word for the motivation to do something only because of the desire to prove someone wrong? When someone is using reverse psychology like:

You won't do this chore, you'll probably just mess it up anyway.

Are they preying on a particular characteristic? If successful, is the manipulated person acting with a particular emotion?


5 Answers 5


For my two-penneth, I'd say that the person is acting out of "sheer bloody-mindedness". Meaning, "I will do this just because people say I can't (whether or not I think it's still a desirable thing to do)".

Don't know if this is only British English.

Edit: Seems to be only BE in this context according to MW.

  • 1
    The Americans have ornery, but I think that doesn't necessarily imply deliberately thwarting or proving someone else wrong (it might just be a side-effect of being set in one's ways, for example). Doing something out of *sheer bloody-mindedness" invariably means you're doing it to defy/discommode someone else, rather than simply because you wanted to anyway. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:06

The person who has been motivated by reverse psychology may be doing what they've been motivated to do out of spite.


The desire or emotion of wanting to prove someone wrong? Here are some examples of words that express that sentiment, used in a phrase or sentence:

  • Acting contrary
  • Motivated to find fault as an expression of schadenfreude
  • Behaving in a truculent manner
  • Being ornery, contentious or gratuitously fussy.

Or either of the two answers provided already, both of which are quite adequate.


Faultfinding works here. Same with peevish, but peevish isn't as precise.

EDIT: Oh! Sorry.

Well, to this, I'd use the phrase "chip on your shoulder" , or something with "underdog". Someone can be on a "crusade" or "on a mission"

But this perhaps delves into psychology.


I think this question was interpreted in reverse. It seems to be asking for the characteristic of a person who can be easily manipulated by the use of reverse psychology, not the one doing the manipulating.

Manipulable describes such a person, as do the words tractable, malleable, and pliable.

You could also call such a person easily swayed or easily influenced.

  • Actually, now I'm stuck - the title asks one question ("Is there a word for the desire or emotion of wanting to prove someone wrong?") and the body asks another ("Are they preying on a particular characteristic?").
    – user13141
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 7:10

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