Psychology, Persuasion, and Manipulation

Jason Motivation

It’s critical to understand psychology when trying to succeed in anything. Do you think great leaders achieved their greatness because they were just so much more skilled than everyone else? Of course not. Real success in life is similar to playing a game of chess. It’s extraordinarily strategic and the psychological moves behind it are played flawlessly by the rich and powerful. The thing is that they don’t want the rest of us to know that, because then their tactics would no longer work. This is why psychology isn’t exactly pointed to as a subject related to extreme success. They would much rather we stick to approved success methods like “hard work” and expertise. If we get too close to understanding these secrets we are written off as paranoid or conspiracy theorists. Now I’m the last one to believe in mass conspiracies, but it’s not exactly a secret that politicians, corporations, and manipulators use proven tactics of manipulation now is it?

Defense Mechanisms

Most of us have heard of common psychological concepts such as defense mechanisms like: repression, regression, reaction formation, isolation, undoing, projection, introjection, sublimation, and displacement. As a prerequisite for this lesson, I encourage you to understand and recognize them, both in others and in yourself. The use and misuse of these and other psychological mechanisms are the fundamental building blocks of advertising, influence, persuasion, manipulation, mind games, mind control, propaganda (this is a great link highlighting this madness), as well as creating and maintaining addictive behavior. Speaking of which, be sure to check out the research I did at Harvard on how specific game mechanics are intentionally designed and implemented to create addictive behavior.

Intermittent Reinforcement

There are a lot of shady, manipulative people out there who have mastered certain tricks from the gallows of psychological warfare, and use these tools to control us. One of the most powerful psychological tricks manipulator’s use is what behavioral psychologists call intermittent reinforcement (IR). It’s the key concept behind why gambling is addictive (particularly slot machines), why certain games become addictive, why employees continue working for abusive bosses, why women stay in abusive relationships, and other seemingly puzzling behaviors.

Intermittent Reinforcement

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I’m not a big fan of wasting time, so rather than write up a huge post on how IR works, I will simply show you a single chapter from the rare 1978 book The Art of Manipulation by “R.B. Sparkman”. Since this book has become a sort of “bible” for shady manipulators.  Manipulation is unethical, and the very opposite of motivation, which I believe wholeheartedly in (lots more on motivation coming later.) Thus, I feel it’s my ethical duty to, at the very least, share this information with you so as to protect yourself from them. So please read about these tactics, and never fall victim to this kind of psychological manipulation.

Other recommended readings: Reinforcement, Behaviorism, Psychological Manipulation, and Propaganda Tactics.