I have a few examples of this I can think of to explain my question.

Scenario #1 - You want to help somebody with their question but you don't know how to help them. You know other people know how to help but no one wants to help. So in order to prompt someone else to help the person you want to help, you intentionally provide a wrong answer. This prompts someone else to provide a correct answer.

Scenario #2 - You see two people of your political party arguing so you pretend to be of the opposite political party member. The two arguing people join forces and attack you instead since you're the common enemy. Mission success, you wanted to unify them and you did.

In both scenarios you're doing something intentionally "different" to have an intended outcome. Like normally, you wouldn't provide a wrong answer, but in this case, you did to prompt someone else to do something.

What would you call this? I'm thinking of "reverse psychology" or "manipulative" but I don't feel like those make sense in either of these scenarios. Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    You might say you're making your "known-to-be-inadequate" response in order to metaphorically break the ice or start the ball rolling. Here are some more expressions in this general area. I don't really think this is anything to do with "reverse psychology" - that would be, for example, making a public pronouncement that no-one should help the person in your scenario #1, in hopes that someone would "defy" you and offer help. Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


You're playing the devil's advocate.

Various definitions can be found:

devil's advocate [uncountable noun] [often with determiner]

If you play devil's advocate in a discussion or debate, you express an opinion which you may not agree with but which is very different from what other people have been saying, in order to make the argument more interesting.


devil's advocate noun [ C usually singular ]

someone who pretends, in an argument or discussion, to be against an idea or plan that a lot of people support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in more detail:

  • I don't really believe all that - I was just playing devil's advocate.

[Cambridge Dictionary]

devil's advocate ...

(4) someone who pretends to be against an idea or plan that many agree with, so that people may discuss it and consider other views


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