Ironic Process Theory explains why telling yourself not to do something often backfires. Here’s what to do instead.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

In the first Harry Potter movie, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine get captured by a fictional body-constricting plant called Devil’s Snare. Like a hungry python, the vine-like plant wraps itself around their legs and torsos while they struggle to escape.

“You have to relax,” says Hermione. “If you don’t, it’ll only kill you faster.”

“Kill us faster?!” shouts Ron, struggling even more. “Now I can relax!!”

Kudos to J.K. Rowling for this brilliant illustration of a psychological phenomenon called ironic processing — when deliberate attempts to avoid certain thoughts make those thoughts more persistent.

By trying to avoid thinking of imminent…

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In my work as a behavioral designer, I come across important stories on how psychology influences our behavior. Every week, I share my round-up of the most important stories at the intersection of psychology, technology and business. I hope you enjoy them!

Don’t Fall for This Excuse Trap: Why “That Won’t Work for Me” is Self-Sabotaging (NirAndFar) Don’t fall for an excuse trap when it comes regaining control of your time. Here’s what to do instead.

Smartphone Too Distracting? Here’s How to Reclaim Your Focus [AUDIO] (Podcast) There are many things we can do to put technology in its place…


To find your focus, understand the relationship between motivation and discomfort

Photo: Attila Csaszar/Getty Images

It took me five years to write my last book, which was a lot longer than it should have taken. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what to do — I did. I just didn’t do it. I wasn’t motivated.

My book, Indistractable, is about how to stop getting distracted. Ironically, the problem was that I kept getting distracted. That is, until I learned the key to finally doing what I set out to do.

When I finally understood the biology behind why we do what we do, I didn’t just write the book; I became more productive at…


In my work as a behavioral designer, I come across important stories on how psychology influences our behavior. Every week, I share my round-up of the most important stories at the intersection of psychology, technology and business. I hope you enjoy them!

Maybe Social Media Isn’t Making Teens Depressed And Here’s What Likely Is (NirAndFar) Instead of panicking about teens’ social media use, what if we focused on sleep and family? In other words, what if we paid attention to the real problems?

‘Tech Addiction’ Is the New Reefer Madness [AUDIO] (Podcast) By promoting the idea that technology is hijacking…


Instead of panicking about teens’ social media use, what if we focused on sleep and family? In other words, what if we paid attention to the real problems?

To learn what the real factors are in teen depression, click here.

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Will Clubhouse be a Habit or Has-Been? (Letter — April 7, 2021)


Moral panics over new technology always hide deeper problems we don’t want to deal with.

Illustration of people reaching towards a smartphone with a rainbow over the smartphone to represent LGBTQ youth.
Illustration of people reaching towards a smartphone with a rainbow over the smartphone to represent LGBTQ youth.
Image courtesy of the author

What do bicycles and social media have in common? Soon after being adopted, each of these technologies brought on a tsunami of unjustified moral panic. Let’s start with bikes.

When bicycles burst onto the Victorian scene in the 1800s, they were a big deal. This cool contraption made it possible to travel much further and faster than you could ever go on foot. Better yet, bikes were a lot cheaper than horses (not to mention simpler to maintain).

Soon enough, bicycles gained popularity with a group whose transportation options had historically been limited: women. At that time, if women wanted…


In my work as a behavioral designer, I come across important stories on how psychology influences our behavior. Every week, I share my round-up of the most important stories at the intersection of psychology, technology and business. I hope you enjoy them!

Will Clubhouse be a Habit or Has-Been (NirAndFar) The Clubhouse app checks all the boxes in my Hooked Model, which reveals why it is so engaging but also reveals some potentially fatal flaws the company must watch out for.

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In our search for easy answers, we give up control.

The evidence is overwhelming: we are far more powerful than the technology that is supposedly mind-controlling us. It’s not even close.

As I’ve discussed here and in many other places, we need to give ourselves more credit. Instead of passively accepting the idea that we’re all being puppeteered by some sort of menacing tech bogeyman, we can hack back distractions.

To be clear, too much social media can be harmful. No one disputes that too much of all sorts of good things can be bad, whether it’s too much news or too much booze.

But the popular narrative that distractions…


The Clubhouse app checks all the boxes in my Hooked Model, which reveals why it is so engaging but also reveals some potentially fatal flaws the company must watch out for if it is to create a lasting habit in users’ lives.

To discover whether I think the Clubhouse app will become a habit or a has-been, click here.

Posts you may have missed:

How to “Listen Like You Mean It” (Letter — April 2, 2021)


In my work as a behavioral designer, I come across important stories on how psychology influences our behavior. Every week, I share my round-up of the most important stories at the intersection of psychology, technology and business. I hope you enjoy them!

How to Listen Like You Mean It (NirAndFar) I recently interviewed Ximena Vengoechea about here new book. Listen Like You Mean It, a book to help readers become better listeners in their everyday lives.

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Nir Eyal

Posts may contain affiliate links to my two books, “Hooked” and “Indistractable.” Get my free 80-page guide to being Indistractable at: NirAndFar.com

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