Books, novels, films; every variant of art has had an option or perception on the possibility of mind control. There have been myths and folk tales on whether or not mind control is real or just a fable. Perhaps the issue has been that we have been looking at it all wrong, asking the wrong questions, because mind-control isn’t a product of art and magic, but science. Mind control has been depicted in books and movies as some mystical subject/ supernatural phenomenon, involving crystal balls and women in very fashionable hats who occasionally travel by broom. However, mind control can simply be summed into the term ‘compliance’ – at least, as far as psychology or science allows it.
Compliance (or Social Compliance) is a form of social influence in which a person yields to explicit (and sometimes implicit) requests from another person or other people. It is basically a reaction made in response to a request. Simple right? What’s so spooky about that? Well, that’s where mind control comes in, because more often than not your reaction is being manipulated by somebody else with some techniques. In 1966, two US social psychologists, Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C. Fraser carried out a field experiment on a technique of social compliance. Something they later called ‘the foot in the door technique’.
If you’ve ever attended boarding school, the odds are that this technique has been used to manipulate you one time or the other. Remember the guy that comes to you asking for just Garri, and the moment you open your locker, he adds sugar, then milk, and then groundnut. In no time, you realise that you have just prepared a beautiful meal for this young gentleman that you probably don’t even like. You give yourself a pat on the back for how emotionally evolved and generous you have become. You just prepared a meal for a hungry lad. That makes you a nice person right? WRONG! That lad just messed with your mind and you didn’t even realise it.
Well according to the two scientists above, the foot in the door technique is a technique for eliciting compliance by preceding a request for a larger commitment with a request for a small one. The initial small request serves the function of softening up the target person. Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser further proved this in a field experiment. They visited householders in their homes and asked some if they were going to be willing to put very small stickers in their houses or car windows about road safety or keeping California beautiful. The others were asked to sign petitions on one of those issues.
Two weeks later a different person, supposedly from a different organisation, arrived and asked the same householders whether they would be willing to have a hole dug in their front garden, with a large, ugly ‘Drive Carefully’ sign planted there. Amongst those who had not received the earlier request, only 17 percent of the control group agreed to have the safe driving sign planted in their gardens, but 55 percent of the participants who initially agreed to the stickers, agreed to it. The foot-in-the-door condition makes it easier for a person to agree to a bigger request, after allowing a smaller one.
Another mind-control technique used to get you to do what you originally don’t want to do, is the door in the face technique. This is just the opposite of the foot in the door technique. It involves making a very large initial request, which the recipient is sure to turn down, followed by a smaller request.
So it goes something like this: you ask your boss for a drastic raise after your outstanding performance. He immediately turns it down and then is forced to settle for something less but higher that he would have initially offered you. Girls do this all the time. She asks for a car for Valentine’s Day and then you settle for an iPhone 7s; she asks for a wedding in the Barbados and then you settle or a Vera Wang wedding dress and then you brag to your friends about your awesome negotiation skills.
Just like the foot in the door technique, this also has a scientific origin. It was discovered by the psychologist Robert B. Cialdino, who performed a field experiment on some students and found out that about 50 percent of those who this technique was used on agreed compared to about 17 percent who were not under ‘the spell’.
Another technique discovered by Cialdino was the low ball technique (also known as lowballing). This is a technique used quite a lot by business men and women for commercial transactions. Here, you first get a person to say yes to an idea/product and then you increase the price later. It is assumed that agreeing to buy something at a given price increases the likelihood of the person buying it at a higher price.
To think of it, haven’t you ever wondered why a car dealer would allow you to take the car for a test drive? Why the market woman allows you to taste the Garri first, or why you’re always offered to taste the Suya before you know about the price? All these are tricks to make you fall in love with the product and then a little inflation in the price is then easily accepted. This experiment proved even more viable than the other ‘mind-control’ techniques, recording about a 95 percent turnout compared to 24 percent on the control group.
Well, here comes the sad part where you find out that knowing these techniques and mind warping tricks don’t exactly save you from its control. But that’s a different topic on social influence. However, maybe this time, you might not always be at the losing side of it. Who knows, it might even get her to say ‘YES’ to you.