Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships

Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne, a Montreal born psychiatrist, is a 1964 bestselling book that describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions. Since its publication, it has sold more than five million copies.

The Games People Play uses casual, often humorous phrases such as:

“See What You Made Me Do,”

“Why Don’t You — Yes But,”


“Ain’t It Awful”

as a way of briefly describing each game. In reality, the “winner” of a mind game is the person that returns to the Adult ego-state first.

Summary – first half of the book

In the first half of the Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Berne introduces transactional analysis as a way of interpreting social interactions. He describes three roles or ego states, known as the Parent, the Adult, and the Child, and postulates that many negative behaviors can be traced to switching or confusion of these roles.

He 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.

Summary – second half of the book

The second half of the Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships 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.

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