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Social Manipulation and Engineering

Updated on June 12, 2014

Social Manipulation

Manipulation is a way of influencing behavior to what someone else wants them to do or be. It usually benefits the manipulator financially, psychologically or emotionally. It can also include not taking action. Behavior modification is a way to change the way someone acts hopefully for the better. Brainwashing changes the thought process to something that most likely is not true.

Sometimes people find it easier to let themselves be manipulated than to think and act independently. Humans are social beings and feel comfortable in a group. Leaders find it easier to manipulate groups who are similar in some ways. Be it color, religion or political leanings. History is full of instances where people are re-educated in order to have the "correct" behavior. Con artists use this knowledge in order to convince their mark to do what the con artist wants.

Controlling The Masses

We allow ourselves to be controlled in order to do what someone else wants. Usually for profit or convenience. Political ads cost a lot of money and the reason is to sway our opinion.

We hear about social engineering with someone trying to get information in order to perpetuate some sort of fraud. They hack into computers after sending phishing emails or befriending people on social networking sites to get information. But this is just a updated version of the old con games.

Even Charles Dickens wrote about financial schemes in his novels where a seemingly well heeled person pretended to invest money for others and led to their ruin. It starts with the social manipulation. Everyone is more comfortable with people they trust. They trust certain types, including relatives, friends, religious peers, leaders, rich people and famous people. Advertisers give contracts to the famous to sell their products, which gets them more business than some average Joe. Even the fraudsters in Dickens novels went to great effort to look prosperous to their victims. The most famous ponzi schemer to date Bernie Madoff was able to manipulate people into giving him their money for years based on his status and reputation.

Not all manipulation is bad. If you can save a life or help someone by changing their behavior this is considered good.

Employment Manipulation

With the job market still very weak employers are in a greater position to take advantage of this situation. When you read about expensive restaurants not giving their employees the tips they worked for you have to wonder. Unions are under the gun because people are saying they are useless. But consider, will anyone listen to you at your job without a union? Or is it you don't expect them to.

One of the many things that is happening is that jobs are trying to control employees whole life. People are expected to work much harder and longer hours for less pay. They want you to be always available to them through mobile devices that you pay for. Years ago if you were an employee they paid for work related devices. Employees now want your computer passwords. Not just Facebook and Twitter but all of them including your business sites. On many levels this is dangerous. They know everyone you are in contact with. They can read all your personal messages. They see your wall and your friends walls. You are not protected from them and they may not protect your information. Jobs are one of the many places where ID thieves get your information. They or anyone they give your information to can perpetuate computer crimes using your ID. They can use it to blackmail you into quitting your job or to rob and harm you physically. Then there is restraint of trade. Would they interfere in your online business or streams of income? The list goes on. The less control you have over your life the less likely you will be a success. And that is the point.

Books On Social Manipulation

To Spin A Yarn

This was a old 19th century nautical term meaning to tell a very embellished fanciful story. A yarn is a long tale. The sailors wove points of facts and points of fiction in their stories. During long voyages this was one way to occupy their time. It also means to make rope by spinning the untwisted yarns of rope fiber.

The meaning now is pretty much the same. Someone tells a story and twists it to give an intended interpretation. For instance it could be used to explain away an infraction. The audience of the tale would determine if they believed it to be spinning a yarn or a fantastic truth.


To tell a story with a particular slant or point of view. What is being told is not totally unbiased or pure fact. Particulars might be left out or added and given a specific interpretation. This will be done with a specific purpose in mind.

Don't Let The Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story

Many things that are written about and passed around as truth are anything but. They seemed to have been misrepresented in the past then got legs. There are probably all kinds of reasons as to in this day and age why it happens. Part of the reason in some cases is the air of authority about who tells the story. I remember when I was in high school and a teacher told the class this "true story'" in the end it happened to be one of the well worn ghost story urban legends of the day. Because it was from a teacher who swore it was true, gave it more credence than it would have normally gotten.

It's amazing that people will swear that certain things are true, that they heard it from a good friend, a very reliable source only to retell a long recycled and sometimes updated urban legend. One thing though about some urban legends. They are cautionary tales to warn you about certain careless and risky behaviors.

Don't Let Knowledge Get In The Way Of Truth

Many times we think we know the truth about a subject. Many things that are often repeated becomes fact. A lot of history is based on no eye witnesses and individual opinions. How surprised we are when we do research only to find out the truth.

Doublespeak is when the meaning of words and phrases are meant to hide the real meaning. When a job I had was downsizing and firing people. What they said was that they were "rightsizing" thus they had to "let people go."

Reading ancient history we are at the mercy of interpreters of ancient languages. Not only do most of us not know ancient languages we are unfamiliar with their customs. Even the current day interpreters have a problem with including their modern day values on the history that they are trying to understand. Some words have different meanings now than they did previously.

"No, it is a word. What matters is the connection the word implies."

Rama- Kandra

Matrix Revolutions

Media Religion

I grew up watching religious epics at the movies and on TV. These were someones visual interpretation of religious stories.They add things for a better affect and come to conclusions that are not even implied in the books.

Many people watch feel good stories about angels who were once people and walk the earth doing good. Angels who help win baseball games for people, angels who are cute cherubs and not the fierce cherubim of the Bible. I personally liked the uplifting stories but had to remind myself that this was not from any holy books but from some media persons idea of a good story.

As with stories of vampires and demons of all kind with various magical powers. The solo hero or heroine usually saves the day with special powers and some side kicks. There is usually a "chosen one" to lead the charge. I prefer to see people use their brain and cooperation with others to solve their problems. People actually believe certain things are biblical instead of Bram Stoker.

But again werewolves and vampires are a part of our culture due to the proliferation of stories about them. And they even evolved to fit a new romantic ideal and the original morality story line is lost. These new vampires are a long way from the original hideous evil Nosferatu and the negative implications. Some have souls and do good deeds and help mankind. They have super powers and are not affected by garlic, holy water, crucifixes or even killer sunlight. They can see their reflection in mirrors and are actually very fashionable. They fly without even turning into a bat. They don't get sick, don't age, so what not to like? The one thing left is the blood sucking. These new vamps don't even have the fangs that we are so familiar with. But even that is somewhat conquered. They can either raid blood banks, have volunteers give up a pint or they use stored or fresh animal blood. Animal blood drinking is still edgy but not for everyone. Blood puddings and other dishes dealing with it have been consumed by humans for a long time.


Poll on Cons

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of a con?

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Con Game

Consumer Friendly Persuasion

Make no mistake about it, the consumer has and continues to be widely studied. Haven't you been to science museums or played optical illusion games. These are taken very seriously in marketing. We all know that $9.99 is $10.00 yet our mind has us still concentrating on the left most digit and seeing the lower number. Certain shapes appear bigger. The shape of the bottle might make it look bigger than another even though they weigh the same. If you notice, many bottles will be very indented at the bottom. That is not for balance, it allows the normally visible top to stay the same while reducing the amount it can hold. We also have the incredible shrinking cans. The can of tuna looks the same as it always did but now the weight keeps getting less every time you buy it. The price will be the same but you will be getting less product. This applies to bags and boxes also. You might still get 20 in a bag but the twenty will be smaller and weigh less. The norm used to be a 5 lb. bag of sugar, guess what, now it's 4lbs. at the same price or a lesser "sale" price.

Most farms are large and mechanized factories so why do most of the eggs and milk we buy have pictures of bucolic looking small farms like in the past? And then there is the bright colorful pictures on the packaging.

We seem to be very impressed with products with a lot of specifications even if we don't know what they mean. We seem to think that since it's on the package it has to be important. The marketers know this and use it as a way to influence us. The best thing to do is to research what features are important to you and which are really not useful.

Beauty treatment ads are very interesting. They say their product is marvelous and makes you look wonderful, but why is the person demonstrating it so air brushed and altered that they don't look real? How is that showing the consumer what the product can do? It has gotten so bad that magazines refuse to carry certain celebrity pictures because of them being too distorted.

Even commercials in the newspapers and television market all type of medication to the public. Even medication that is used for real medical issues can now be used for cosmetic and beauty purposes. The marketing is of course for product familiarity

Handling something makes it closer to you buying, Like putting a pen in your hand makes it easier for you to sign a contract. Why does your insurance guy want to come to your house rather than email or fax the info.

Consumers using cash will spend less than those using a credit card. Even for as long as we have been using these cards, it doesn't feel like real money. With cash you can run out or have to make sure you have enough with you.

Now they are telling us that it doesn't matter how much we spend using the credit card because we are getting reward points and that's the most important part.

Poll On False Advertising.

Have you ever been a victim of false advertisement ?

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Medical Maneuvering

The medical institutions have gotten into the act. Hospitals are charging their patients ridiculous amounts, knowing the insurance will knock it down and still give them more that the treatment was worth. Doctors are knowingly referring unwary patients to out- of- network peers. This means there will be a large bill to deal with. People trust that their clinicians are making decisions based

on what will help them, not on what is more profitable.

Media has all types of advertisements for medications and procedures. It definitely is aimed at the consumer and not the clinicians. They do this for brand recognition so you will ask your doctor about what you saw. Media tells you that you have a problem with something then tells you they have the cure. They downplay the side effects. Some of the medical news we hear about might not be totally accurate, they pick bits and pieces of early research and extrapolate as to what they want the outcome to be. The sci fi effect happens with medicine. Because we see things on television and in the movies we think medicine is more advanced then it is and might have unrealistic expectations. Media goes in trends, now everything needs green tea in it or antioxidants. The real natural foods have what they have and are not enriched with the trendy nutrients.

Health care is a business and people expect to make a profit from it. There are people who work very hard at it and expect a salary commensurate to their education and skills. Equipment is very expensive and needs upkeep. But as a patient and consumer you would like to be treated fairly. Unfortunately you need to deal with it as a business because many people are finding themselves bankrupt because of it.

It can be devastating that after an emergency to find a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. There is probably plenty of errors but some of the costs are from out of network practitioners. You might start out researching to make sure insurance covers everything but it is not in your control.

One of the thing that is happening is that hospitals are having clinicians who are not actually employees set up shop or just work there, They might not take your insurance and charge what they want.

Sometimes they take you on the scenic route. Meaning they give you three tests when one would give you the answer. Or want you to come back very often without telling you why. Ask questions and (gasp) do your own research. Remember they do not belong to a holy order, you pay them.

Poll On Being Alert For Spammers, Phishers and Scammers

Are you on the alert for spammers, phishers and scammers.

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Hoaxes and Scams

These are about money and power. Scammers will call your house or email you trying to get your information. The prankster will try and convince you that your reality is different than it really is. This is to get you to do certain ridiculous things. There were previous pranks on fast food workers where they called up saying they were from the corporate headquarters and tell the workers to do a bunch of really bizarre things. A few refused but others did as they were told. There is one going around where someone calls visitors in hotel rooms telling them they are the front desk and again tells them they are in danger and to do very destructive things to the room to prevent injury. Many comply and in the end cause major damage. How are people going to act if there is real danger and real authorities call with instructions.

"If God didn't want them sheared then he would not have made them sheep."

The bandit Calvera

famous quote from the movie

The Magnificent Seven

Links on Manipulation

These are links to stories about people going about their day to day life and other people disrupt it by pretending to be who they aren't.

When Does Summer End ?

When Does Winter Begin?

We have lost track of the seasons. How can the end of August be the last weekend of "summer". As we all should know summer ends on September 21. In New York school would begin around the second week in September. They would always tell us at the end of the school year, "see you in the fall." Of course it should be see you in "late summer." If teachers can't get it right how should students. Labor day is the end of the summer vacation commercial season, but the summer season continues on till the 21 of September. September is a mostly summer month but is mostly considered autumn.

The Christmas season used to start after Thanksgiving, now it is starting before Halloween. There is now a black Friday at the end of October. The decorations came out with the back to school supplies at the end of August, some before the Halloween decorations. Thanksgiving is almost forgotten.

Don't Believe All You Read

Not long ago in a area near me there was a store that sold the most delicious fresh baked low calorie muffins. There they were lined up, all with the fat, caloric and probably cholesterol content on little placards of their food items. People said they went there specifically because of how good the muffins tasted and the fact that they were low calorie. Well someone didn't believe the signs (probably someone who bakes). They had the muffins tested and found out all the numbers were malarkey. The local news media confronted the shop manager and they gave some convoluted answer saying it was a honest mistake. In the end they said they would be more careful in how they label their products.

When the skeptic was asked why was there suspicion about the food. The answer was that it didn't taste like low calorie. One of the reasons people like highly fat and sugary foods is the taste. Low calorie foods can be good but usually there is a difference in taste.

Behavior Modification

Recently I read a woman was attacked in a parking lot at a mall in broad daylight. While she was fighting valiantly for her life there were people witnessing the attack. She finally fought him off and he fled. One of the bystanders came over to apologize. The reason he said he didn't help was because he thought it was a joke. People don't react now naturally to their environment because of many factors, one is that they might be on T.V. Or it might be a joke and they don't want to look foolish. So put cameras there and anything can happen uninterrupted.

Technology or Smoke and Mirrors

We as a society are impressed with technology. The problem with technology is we might not know how things work and our decisions are clouded by that. We are left to depend on experts to explain things to us. What they explain might be true or a bunch of hooey. Another problem is whether the technology is accurate. Any piece of equipment needs upkeep and calibrations in order to be accurate. Just because it spews out data doesn't mean the data is correct or really means anything important. Also there is the human element. If the person using the equipment is not properly trained than there could be a problem.

There is something I consider the sci fi effect . We read books, magazines watch movies and television that depicts fantasy stories. The stories take more than artistic license. Some are purely science fiction, operative word is fiction. We hear the words and see the actions so often some people really think they exist. What happens is the world we live in is less advanced than some think it is. Snake oil salesmen know this and try to sell technology that doesn't exist in the real world.

People have spent many years in jail on misrepresented science. They didn't always know that some individuals have more than one type of DNA. Fingerprint reading and arson forensics are a learned skill and if the so-called experts are ill trained then people can be accused of crimes when they are innocent. Contrary to popular opinion they are not exact sciences. In one famous case a man was arrested and detained and there really was no match. He won a 2 million dollar lawsuit. A recent case found that there was contamination from a fingerprint lab technician. Coroners in many areas are not even doctors. Lay people who make up a jury can be manipulated into thinking that the science is more advanced than it really is and that these people know what they are talking about.

Are you aware of social manipulation in your life?

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    Post Comment

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Yes very. As an ex-policeman I guess I am more aware than most, but I have noticed since I retired how many cold selling or scam calls I receive during the day, sometimes 8 or more on a bad day. I can block the ones from within the UK now via the Telephone Preference Service, but the ones from overseas keep coming. Sometimes I pity the operators who sit there lying through their teeth all day long, but mostly I hate their guts.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Now I watch for it. I'm especially sensitive to (aware of) the ways people manipulate conversations.

    • Tiggered profile image


      7 years ago

      My favourite subject! Somehow we all accept we are being officially lied to on daily basis. What the hell is wrong with us?

    • religions7 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens, blessed by a squidangel :)


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