Oops, that's not quite what I meant...
October 23, 2006 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Wordfilter: looking for a word or phrase that describes social paradoxical effects, where the action results in the opposite of its intention.

The phrase 'paradoxical effect' comes up in medicine and biochemistry, when a substance initiates a chain which sends the system the opposite direction from what is 'normal.'
Homeopathy is based on the principle.

Two social examples:
Blue-chip companies not recruiting straight-A students like they once did.
One reason being a higher incidence of cheaters, who are more likely to embezzle;
another aspect being that one or two poorer grades indicated better prioritizing.
(I can't locate the original article on this.)

Another is the recent news about "Troops in debt can't go overseas,"
which is likely to increase the number of troops going into debt.

There's an aspect of feedback here,
but none of these have that hint of 'oops,' where it seemed like a good idea at the timeā€¦

This seems like something an economics phrase or a German word would describe.
Perhaps I'm trying to split too fine a hair,
but AskMe has amazed me in the past.
Any ideas?
posted by dragonsi55 to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about the Law of Unintended Consequences?
posted by Sara Anne at 7:53 AM on October 23, 2006

Response by poster: God, that's fast - 2 minutes?

At the bottom of that page was 'Perverse incentive', which exactly captures the hair split.

Thank you.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:04 AM on October 23, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, take metacommentary to metatalk, please
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on October 23, 2006

Response by poster: Sigh...

If we're going down that road:

1. I thought AskMe was to deal with specific questions, that could be answered. Which it was.

2. The context of the question was language, not biochem. There's no grammatical reason not to use the two, so can we assume the objection was to the science? Which is a different context.

3. I think I've read that tangents & metadiscussions should be taken to metatalk. I tend to be forgiving since I've stepped over the line myself before, but I'm trying to do the right thing here.

4. I'd be happy to discuss the homeopathy thing, but I'm not in sales. I just was hoping we could have pleasant closure to the question, and Sara Anne took me right where I needed to go.
posted by dragonsi55 at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2006

Response by poster: Jessamyn moved the comments as I wrote the above, I'm happy with the answer I got.

Thank you again.
posted by dragonsi55 at 10:21 AM on October 23, 2006

You're welcome.
posted by Sara Anne at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2006

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