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In persuasion, a threat is an attack on "deep needs" that forces the persuadee to act quickly.[1] As a technique, it is based on the ability to control another.

"Threats do not change minds, but they are often very effective at changing how people act, at least in the short term.... The problems with threats is that [they] can cause a tremendous backlash in terms of the anger and other negative emotions that are aroused. Where a trust is betrayed, such as when a confidence is used against a person, their anger and hate can be very significant... You can use threats to cause short-term behavioral change, but be very aware that it can have a significant negative effect, including a long-term need for vengeance and subtle acts of revenge."[1]

The effectiveness, however temporary, of a threat is also dependent on the threatened person's belief in the ability of the threatener to carry out their threat. A mother saying to her child "I'll kill you if you do that once more!" is not likely to be believed and hence the threat is empty. Equally, "I'll report you to the FBI if you ..." is likely to be perceived as an empty threat when perpetrated by Wiki proprietors.

In game theory, it is assumed that carrying out the threat makes both parties worse off than allowing the threatened party to do what they want. Therefore, most threats are not believable unless specific action is taken to make the threatening party even worse off if they do not go through with it. This is either done by publicly "tying one's hands" or putting resources down to defend with the threat. Alternatively, cultivating a reputation of being an unhinged psychopath also works.

See also[edit]