by Jon Atack
Trickery Is a Tool of Manipulation
All children should be taught bamboozle detection along with their multiplication tables, if not their ABC’s.
The Tools of the Trade
“Bamboozle” means “trickery” and we use the word to cover all of the many approaches used by human predators to seduce and recruit unsuspecting victims into their traps.
The first approach will often be charming – flattery is usually involved. If a stranger smiles too much, and compliments you on your appearance or your intelligence, watch out!
Often there will be an attempt at physical contact – pick-up artists touch a woman’s hair or her arm. This is a way of creating physical rapport. Be alert to any stranger who touches you, or moves into your personal space, without permission.
This flower is our gift for you!
A cheap gift may be offered – some pick-up artists give necklaces, timeshare scammers offer free drinks and meals; cult recruiters may give flowers or incense sticks, or offer a free survey or personality test. When a stranger offers you something for nothing, they are acting out a deliberate script, and they are definitely trying to sell you something. It is time to walk away.
Con artists offer big rewards for small investments, offering us a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to cash in. Many will justify their actions by saying that greedy people deserve to be conned, but the truth is that we all want to make a profit in life, so it is easy to be taken in. If it seems too good to be true, it most likely isn’t true.
Another manipulative tactic is to insist that the offer is taken up immediately – time pressure is an essential element of trickery: “buy now or lose the deal” is the message of the predator; if we’re given time to think it over, we’re more likely to see the trick, and that’s bad for business. Simply put, if you must “buy now,” don’t.
Emotional manipulation can go either way: into your darkest fears, or into your highest hopes and dreams. It is not a good idea to share either your fears or your dreams with a stranger, because it creates emotional vulnerability. The scammer will offer to mend your fears or to help you achieve your dreams, but will more likely increase your fears, empty your wallet, and shatter your dreams.
These approaches have little to do with critical thinking: even the most rational people are prey to predators, and as neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor says, “‘Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”
Perhaps the most important advice is never to take sweets – or anything else – from strangers; don’t sign anything without taking it home and talking it over with friends; and take a long hard look at that friendly stranger, before handing over any cash or making a commitment.