I was watching this video from Toorcon on social engineering called Peoplehacking when they showed this clip below, completely blowing me out of the water and derailing me from watching the rest of the Peoplehacking video. This really is an amazing clip.
I should preface this with the fact that I am a weird adult and was probably an even weirder kid. Between the approximate ages of 9 and 14, I studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming. While it has been many, many, many years since then, I was still able to recognize some techniques from that early learning.
First, some sociological things not necessarily related to hypnosis. The man is dressed in a sports coat and button-up shirt. There have been numerous studies from the Milgram Experiment to the Stanford Prison Experiment on ‘uniforms’ and their effect on people’s willingness to cooperate despite social norms and personal conscience. There have been many more focusing on men in business suits. Some are referenced in the Peoplehacking video. Even someone from a counter-cultural perspective is more likely to follow directions from a person in a suit. Criminals know this all too well. Also, the man is attractive, well-spoken and gregarious…. all points in his favor.
Whether you realize it or not, you move in out of hypnotic states many times every day. Repetition, especially in the vein of the familiar, tends to bring it on. The fact that this man was walking, something that can induce it, and was stopped abruptly probably played a part in the outcome.
There is an NLP process called mirroring which has it’s roots within our basic neuronal make-up. You can induce someone, possibly without even speaking, by following their movements and then eventually they will start following yours. It works by hijacking the empathetic response using “mirror neurons”. The con mirrors the mark and then steps back, the mark eagerly closing the distance. You see the con reach into the mark’s space and the mark quickly reciprocates just before the handshake. The handshake is key in this and is known as the “Handshake Induction” or the “Handshake Interrupt” pioneered by Milton Erickson.
If you do something only once, you have to consciously think about it. As you do it more often you think about it less and less until it becomes a completely unconscious act and the steps within become one unit of behavior done while your mind tunes out. Shaking hands is a great example of this. You reach out, grasp with a certain amount of force, you pump a certain number of times and then release. Eventually those steps become one process.
By grabbing the mark’s wrist in the middle of the handshake, his interruption has given the con a very short window into the mark’s unconsciousness. Once this hypnotic window is open, the con is able to tell the man to give up his possessions without the conscious alarms ever being triggered. Notice the hypnotic suggestion to the man as they part when he quickly slips in “You’re fine.” It takes the man over 10 seconds to realize that everything is indeed not fine.
Once the mark catches up with the con, the same technique is used on him again with success. I’m not 100% sure on the use of the bottle but I am going to guess. I think it is to both throw the mark off (confusion and interruption) and to create a false sense of trust. Even though it is taken right back, in a hypnotic state, you would feel more trusting of giving someone your things after you’d been given something by them. Notice the parting suggestion of “I think you were heading that way” which the mark immediately does, leaving his items once more in the possession of the con.