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What do you do for the world?

Reading through email spam or the classified advertisements in a progressive newspaper, one may find offers for everything from assertiveness training1 to sexual domination hypnosis2 to computer software designed to flash brief messages on the screen with the goal of quitting smoking or losing weight.3 These are just a few of the many household Mind Control products marketed today promising that their simple tricks will allow anyone to be the master of their domain. While the efficacy of these programs is debatable, the science behind them is quite sound.

The basics of Mind Control are as ancient as mankind itself. Convincing someone to adopt an idea or perform a task is commonplace in every family. Children begin learning how to rationalize, peer pressure, beg, bribe, bully, guilt, or resort to any number of other tactics including blackmail and all out violent assault in order to get their way. As author Eric Schlosser notes in Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, James U. McNeal, a leading authority in marketing to children, “classifies juvenile nagging tactics into seven major categories” in his 1992 book Kids as Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children:

A pleading nag is one accompanied by repetitions of words like “please” or “mom, mom, mom.” A persistent nag involves constant requests for the coveted product and may include the phrase “I’m gonna ask just one more time.” Forceful nags are extremely pushy and may include subtle threats, like “Well, then, I’ll go and ask Dad.” Demonstrative nags are the most high-risk, often characterized by full-blown tantrums in public places, breath-holding, tears, a refusal to leave the store. Sugar-coated nags promise affection in return for a purchase and may rely on seemingly heartfelt declarations like “You’re the best dad in the world.” Threatening nags are youth forms of blackmail, vows of eternal hatred and of running away if something isn’t bought. Pity nags claim the child will be heartbroken, teased, or socially stunted if the parent refuses to buy a certain item.4

An increasing number of teens and young adults are beginning to hone these skills in order to control family, friends and coworkers. As behaviorist B.F. Skinner explains in his book Walden Two:

We make continual efforts to control each other – teachers to control their students, students to control their teachers; parents to control their children, children to control their parents; friends and lovers, governments and citizens, all are engaged in this enterprise – but we do it poorly, haphazardly, because we don’t understand what we’re doing and even refuse to acknowledge the truth of our behavior.5

“Flicking through some of the saner sections of neuro-linguistic programming texts (minus the new age content) brings up the subtle use of language and body-language to influence other people,” states United Kingdom Defense Contractor “Mom” in personal correspondence. One method of this technique is through “mirroring” 6 the actions and words of the other person, which Mom explains:

Mirroring fosters a sense of ease or trust. Courting couples tend to do this intuitively (watch dating couples and see how they mirror things like sipping coffee, taking a bite of food, etc.) but it can be used as a way of making the mirrored party susceptible to persuasion. By doing the opposite to mirroring, the other party can be made ill-at-ease and be less amenable to persuasion (basically it rubs them up the wrong way).

Do you believe in humans?

Annie Finnigan reports on body language for Women’s Day magazine:

“Up to 80% of what we communicate is nonverbal,” says Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent turned nonverbal communication expert and author of What Every Body Is Saying. That means every gesture, look, mouth twitch, eyebrow raise, even the way we stand sends a message.… We relate to people in three ways: verbally (with words), vocally (tone of voice), and visually (body language), says Albert Mehrabian, PhD, emeritus professor of psychology at UCLA and author of Silent Messages. But the three V’s don’t always line up.… “If there’s an inconsistency between the verbal, vocal and visual, our words give off the least information,” he says. “Our facial expressions play the greatest role.”…

“Poker players are good at hiding nonverbal cues,” [says poker champion Annie Duke]. “But I always watch them very closely, and if I see them blinking fast, licking their lips or flashing a quick grimace before they smile, chances are they’re bluffing.” 7

Mom points out entertainer Derren Brown whose website reveals that he “can seemingly predict and control human behavior. He doesn’t claim to be a mind-reader, instead he describes his craft as a mixture of magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship.” 8 Brown “primes” his audience members using subtle clues to respond in predetermined ways. The effect is dramatic.

Mom also notes a Mind Control game that primes players based upon their personality: conformists will end up visualizing one image (e.g., an elephant in Denmark) while nonconformists will see another (e.g., an emu in Dubai). This phenomenon may be found in simpler form per a circulating email that has the reader calculate the number six several times then asks for a vegetable. It claims 98% of readers will choose carrot.

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1 Assertiveness Training Websites, The Online Self Improvement Community, at 2 Sexual Domination Hypnosis, Google search, at (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

3 Subliminal Software – Subliminal Messages & Self Hypnosis Software!,, at (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

4 Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (New York: HarperCollins, 2002, 2001), p. 44.

5 Harvey Mindess, Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor
(New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1988), p. 101.

6 Mirroring (psychology),, at (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

7 Annie Finnigan, “Body Language — Explained: Learn how to decode the unspoken messages people send your way,” Woman’s Day, at (retrieved: 16 February 2012).

8 Derren Brown, at (retrieved: quoted March 2006; 3 January 2011).

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