Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Its an instruction, you fool

Back in  quasi-bayesian placebos, placebo engineering, and the like, I talk about suggestions as if they're predictions. This isn't false, but I was missing a big part of it - I'll come back to this.

So I think I mentioned somewhere back there that social pressure is another thing that directs our attention. The old school authoritarian approach (the "dress up in a lab coat" approach) isn't effective just because the authorities make good predictions, it is also effective because you are socially expected to conform.  It is a bit tough to tease apart the influences though, since guys in lab coats are usually kinda smart and all that.

Other approaches explicitly frame suggestions as instructions. Of course, they're often instructions that are outside our conscious locus of control, but that is swept under the rug (and as long as the subject doesn't notice this sweeping, they won't remember that they "can't" do it :P).

I kinda liked those approaches because it always shifts the blame off of me (which feels good), but also means that when you get stuck, you can always try to break it down into instructions that they can follow.

But it all ties together much more beautifully than this, and I feel like a bit of a retard for being so slow to pick it up.

So there's this awesomely important thing called "frame control". It deserves it's own post, but in short, you want to suck people into your reality. Act in such a way that they step into your shoes and see the world the way you do.

All suggestions are instructions. Even the ones that look like predictions or statements of fact are just instructions to accept your frame where they hold. Sometimes it just looks odd when you stop to think about it - people will word things as predictions when the body language and tonality strongly subcommunicate an instruction.

Let me give an example. Someone is annoying you, so you could flat out tell them “Stop fucking doing that”  But a better approach would be to describe the current state of affairs as "You are done doing that", and then '‘predict’ to them "You aren't going to do that anymore". Of course, these are still instructions. You're instructing them to "Stop it right the fuck now and do not start again". However, you're phrasing it as if it’s just how things are, which makes it a bit harder to resist.

It's not foolproof, of course - they could respond "Oh really? Looks like I'm still doing it! :P", but there are benefits of framing it this way. If something is framed as an explicit instruction, the idea that you have to accept it or not is pretty salient. If something is framed as though it is just that way, then there ain't nothing you can do about it. Even if they are partially aware that it’s an instruction, there's still the looming thought "what does this guy know that lets him say it as if I can't refuse?"

Suggestions are all instructions to use your frame. Maybe because it's obviously right, maybe it’s because you're high status and expect to be followed - whatever, it’s an instruction. This was a huge insight for me, which has helped me hold a much stronger frame.

Before, if someone questioned whether my prediction would work, I'd feel busted.  I'd have to try to come up with some clever reasoning that let it work for sure, or some clever argument to explain to their conscious minds what to do.

But now I just go back to my frame control tactics. If they question it, they're not in my frame. They want to be in my frame, or they wouldn't have asked to be hypnotized. Now, I'd just look expectantly, as if to say "Are you done yet? Let's get back on track, okay?". Just subcommunicate that what they're doing isn't important - it's not needed and it's not where we're going with this. And since they know they aren't going to get there without me, they'll follow along. If they're really being a pain, you come back to the fundamental question of change artistry: What do you want? Oh right, you wanted to be hypnotized. Now let me do my job ;)

Now I just ignore "conscious level" objections. "I don't believe in hypnosis" is very genuinely dealt with by telling them "You don't have to believe in hypnosis, just follow my instructions, okay?", whereas before I might have tried to explain hypnosis until they had no way to refute it - which takes longer than their attention span.

If it doesn't work, it's not that you're a fraud and made bad predictions. It's that they didn't follow instructions. In your frame, your predictions hold. In your frame, their hand is stuck - they're just not joining you in that frame. And it's also not a time to berate them for not following instructions (a strong leader doesn’t need that), or to listen to them create rationalizations about why they "cant" and try to out maneuver them like it's a chess match. It's just that they weren't following, and they need to follow if it's going to work. It's just time to look at them like they're crazy for not seeing things the way you do - after all, the way you see things is way more awesome - you're a fucking hypnotist!


  1. > It's just time to look at them like they're crazy for not seeing things the way you do - after all, the way you see things is way more awesome - you're a fucking hypnotist!

    Wow, this looks like some seriously dark art.

  2. Seriously powerful, and abuseable, but not seriously *dark*. The good/evil comes from how you use it.

    "looking at them like they'e crazy", like the rest of the low level mechanics, is a cue to take the idea seriously, which is easier to do if the idea is true/helpful. Partly because they'll have less objections, partly because the objections they have are more easily answered, and partly because you don't have to convincingly lie.

    Unfortunately, there ain't no such thing as persuasion that can *only* be used for good.