How to Brainwash People: Techniques to Put an Idea into Someone’s Mind
It was another day in Khost, Afghanistan, when Shakirullah Yasin Ali, aged 14, climbed into the driver’s seat of a car, turned the ignition, and said a final prayer. The car was wired to a bomb. Shakirhullah knew his mission to drive the car near clustered British and American people then detonate it. He was about to die – or so he thought. Stopped and caught, he later said, “All I know is what the mullahs told me and kept telling me: that the British and Americans were against God”.
30 years before that on November 18th, 1978, 909 people drank Flavor-Aid mixed with cyanide and valium. The group knew death was imminent. They were members of a cult reportedly persuaded by their leader to drink the poison. Known as the Jonestown incident, this is one example of multiple ritual suicides committed by cult members.
What kind of power can convince people – from frightened teenagers to large groups of adults – to do something as extreme as ending their own lives? History is rife with examples of people behaving in stupid ways due to an idea put into their mind. From joining the Nazi party and being convinced to kill innocents, to joining a cult and giving up all worldly possessions, it seems the human mind is more easily “brainwashed” than we like to think.
The examples are not always extreme. If you have bought something you didn’t want that much, found yourself agreeing to something unpleasant, or changed your opinion after talking to somebody, you experienced how your mind can be influenced by others. 2300 years ago, Aristotle described the mind as an “unscribed tablet” – something easily shaped and written upon by others. We have always wondered how to brainwash people.
Aristotle described the mind as an ‘unscribed tablet’ – something easily shaped and written upon by others.
The fascination with techniques to put an idea into someone’s mind permeates our popular culture too. In the movie Inception, the main character played by Leonardo DiCaprio possesses a rare skill – he can enter the dreams of others then learn their secrets. His team is hired to appear in the dreams of Robert Fischer Jr. to plant a simple idea – the thought of breaking up then selling his father’s business empire. The assumption is a person’s mind can be altered from within, bringing him to believe the idea was his own.
If you’re like, you can’t enter people’s dreams. The core idea behind Inception rings true. The examples described show the destructive power of the brainwashing techniques you’re about to discover. Use these techniques to brainwash people, responsibly and ethically. Positive brainwashing can do anything from impress people at parties to make your relationships better.
Imagine what you could do if you were able to plant ideas inside people’s minds. You might be offered a job, a large sum of money, or a date. Those awkward disagreements could easily come to an end if you were able to change another’s mind, while they believe they thought of the solution themselves. How do you put an idea into someone’s mind? Read on.
Priming to Brainwash People: Secrets to Suck Money Out of Wallets
Primarily used by hypnotists and publicized by TV “psychological magician” Derren Brown, priming involves suggesting an idea at a level the other person is not consciously aware of. If you give someone a list of the words “chicken”, “dog”, and “pet”, then ask them to think of a word that rhymes with “hat” they’re likely to answer “cat”. Their mind is primed to think of animals.
Derren Brown often fools participants into believing he telepathically guesses which item or card they think of, when he has in primed them to think of a specific item. Let him play with you. Watch the video below to try this brainwash experiment to see if he can put his idea into your mind:
Watched it? Only then read on.
To bring the 3 of diamonds to mind, he makes a diamond shape with his hands while telling participants to “visualise the card in your mind” and hits three points in the air when asking them to “clearly see the numbers on the card”. When he pulls out the 3 of diamonds and asks, “Is this the card you were thinking of?” the majority of participants seem shocked.
Priming is used in advertising. Studies show that exposure to food advertisements increase the amount people eat that day. When you think about all the messages and images you receive every day, you start to realize how marketing companies prime us to spend. This can work in other ways: exposure to messages about old age cause people to walk more slowly, and people asked to recite the Ten Commandments before a task become much less likely to cheat. Getting somebody to think along certain lines can influence the decisions they make later.
Here’s a great party trick: prime your participant’s mind to think of yellow items. Do this by talking about or pointing out something yellow, wearing a yellow shirt, or perhaps humming the tune to “Yellow Submarine”. You can be creative. Ensure your tactics are not too obvious. A few minutes later, tell a third friend in the conversation you can guess what fruit your primed friend will say. Tell your primed friend to name the first fruit that comes to mind. Because of the yellow priming, the chances are he or she will think then say “banana”.
…exposure to messages about old age cause people to walk more slowly.
Prime somebody into being more agreeable by beginning a conversation with questions that generate a lot of “yes” responses. “The weather’s nice today, isn’t it?” and other yes-inducing questions make somebody more likely to say yes to your suggestion.
If you want to plant an idea involving money (for example, you want a pay raise), it is better to prime the person for empathy and kindness, as thinking about money automatically makes people less inclined to share their wealth. Instead, get them thinking about their social connections and their pride in their own generosity by asking them about their family or hobbies.
Word Ambiguity and Embedded Commands to Put an Idea into Someone’s Mind
The sentence “You might have decided by now” seems innocent enough until you realize it contains the command “buy now”. A method used by therapists and salespeople alike is embedding commands in seemingly innocuous sentences.
Imagine you are trying to win over a person you want to date. “You, like me, have an interest in cars,” contains the embedded command ‘like me’, while placing emphasis on certain words can also have the effect of highlighting your hidden message – e.g. “I’m not sure what you want to do, but I’m going to go out for a cigarette, if you’d like to come with me.”
These techniques, in essence, rely on clever wordplay. If you’ve ever fallen for a joke or misheard a song lyric, you’ll know how easily certain phrases can be misinterpreted. Using ambiguity in your speech can subtly convey a message without directly saying it. There are several types of ambiguous sentences, such as “I had to greet guests” / “I had two Greek guests”, (phonological) or “Woman, without her man, is nothing” / “Woman: without her, man is nothing.” (structural).
NLP practitioners and hypnotists often pronounce sentences in ambiguous ways to change their patients’ way of thinking. Think of any combination of words that sound similar, and how you could slip a hidden message into a seemingly innocent sentence. Something as innocent as “Let’s have a cup of proper tea” could bring the idea of property into a person’s head; perfect if you want somebody to consider moving house.
Watch Derren Brown plant the idea of a BMX bike into Simon Pegg’s head (with an overlay explanation of what he is doing):
How to Brainwash People by Being Incomplete
If you offer an idea to someone on a plate, the chances are they will reject it. People like to believe they are clever. We cling to ideas we believe are ours and reject ideas pushed on us from the outside. The trick is to convince the person your idea is actually theirs. This is a common technique in sales and advertising; images of attractive women wearing perfume do not tell you that buying the perfume will make you more attractive, but the pieces are there for your brain to put together.
To plant an idea in someone’s mind and have them believe it was their own, lay clues without being too obvious. It’s like Dale Carnegie’s advice to praise features in someone you want to bring forth.
If you are impatient, you will give yourself away; this is something that needs to be done over time. If you are trying to choose holiday destinations and your partner is set on Europe while you dream of Hawaii, you could occasionally mention a crime that has happened in Europe or comment on how expensive you’ve heard it is there. To promote your own idea, there are a lot of things you can do without mentioning Hawaii.
One way is to play dumb. Suggest it would be great if you could go somewhere with great beaches and cocktails, but without the stress of having to exchange your dollars. If you do this effectively and not too obviously, your partner might come to the conclusion themselves.
Once they think themselves smart for working it out, it will become “their” idea. They will be more attached to the idea. For extra effect, leave a picture of a tropical beach lying around. They might not consciously notice it, but the picture will take root in their mind and start to grow.
It is possible to pretend a person previously mentioned something – frame your idea with something like “As you were saying before…” or “I’m sure it was you who told me …” Even if they have no memory of saying this, a positive or wise statement you attribute to them can be too tempting to pass up. Many people assume they must have said it at some point, and begin to claim ownership and feel pride over the idea.
This method can also be used to give advice. If you have a friend who never takes your advice, you may be telling him or her what to do. Rather than giving instructions, ask leading questions to lay out the pieces. It might be obvious to you they need to ask for a pay raise at work. You could ask, “Have you thought about what you might do to earn more money?”
The pay raise solution will come to them in something of a eureka moment, at which point you smile and congratulate them on their idea. Therapists often use this technique to give their clients a feeling of power and control over their lives. Nobody likes to feel they need other people to tell them what to do making the technique effective.
How to Use Reverse Psychology on Men and Women
If you see yourself as a rebel, you probably hate being told what to do. What if instead of “Tidy your room!” your mother had said “I bet you couldn’t make your room tidy even if you tried”? People think of reverse psychology in very simple terms – telling somebody to do the opposite of what you want them to do. These days, most people are wise to that idea and “Don’t buy me a birthday present, then!” is more passive-aggressive than planting an idea into their mind.
Advertisers often use reverse psychology; if you’ve ever desired a product because it was expensive or limited, then you might have fallen prey to the technique. People want what is hard to get, and don’t care so much about what is easy to obtain.
Try this with dating. Once you have attraction, tell a woman, “I’m going to stop this right now; it would never work out between us” or suddenly act as if you are disinterested. For women who are used to getting what they want, this can make you far more interesting and convince them they want to be with you.
People think of reverse psychology… [as] more passive-aggressive than planting an idea into their mind.
Reverse psychology works especially well on rebellious or argumentative people. A simple statement like “You probably wouldn’t like the roller coaster; it’s too scary” can get your friend lining up with their ride ticket. Your bold statement gets them thinking, “What do they know about me?” and convinces your friend that trying the thing you suggest to avoid was their idea.
Be careful using this technique unwittingly. Telling your mate not to date a girl may get him to believe you and remain single.
Although the idea of manipulating another person’s mind is ethically questionable, remember we are manipulated on a daily basis by advertisers and politicians, whether in the form of subtle priming (“That politician said something that made me feel good; his other statements must be good, too!”) to obvious reverse psychology (“It’s expensive, so it must be good!”).
Brainwashing can be used for evil. Like any power, it can also be used to improve your life without hurting anyone. It can be used to make the world a better place – imagine being able to persuade more people to be kind to each other, to look after the environment, or to eat more healthily! The techniques outlined here, when used properly (and ethically), opens up doors you might never have dreamed possible. Of course, you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to.
Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"
Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/