Games People Play (book)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Games People Play is a famous 1964 book by psychologist Eric Berne. Since its publication it has sold more than five million copies. The book describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions.

In the first half of the book, Dr. Berne introduces transactional analysis as a way of interpreting social interactions. He describes three roles or ego-states, the Child, the Parent, and the Adult, and postulates that many negative behaviors can be traced to switching or confusion of these ego-states. Dr. Berne discusses procedures, rituals, and pastimes in social behavior, in light of this method of analysis. For example, a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling parent will often engender self-abased obedience, tantrums, or other childlike responses from his employees.

The second half of the book catalogues a series of mind games, in which people interact through a patterned and predictable series of "transactions" which are superficially plausible (that is, they may appear normal to bystanders or even to the people involved), but which actually conceal motivations, include private significance to the parties involved, and lead to a well-defined predictable outcome, usually counterproductive. The book uses “Boy, has he got your number” and other casual phrases as a way of briefly describing each game. Often, the "winner" of a mind game is the person that returns to the Adult ego-state first.

It is important to note that not all interactions or transactions are part of a game. Specifically, if both parties in a one-on-one conversation remain in an Adult ego-state, it is unlikely that a game is being played.

Presently, more than 10,000 people around the world define themselves as transactional analysts. Though it is sometimes derided as pop psychology in professional psychoanalytical circles, it is useful to examine certain social situations with the method.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Games People Play (book)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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