Social Engineering Techniques for Beginners

Previously, the Weekly Nudge has focussed on various agendas which involve the incremental process of ‘nudging’ society towards a particular conclusion. Such groups of people that seek to persuade the wider population to accept their agendas use psychological techniques that are most commonly described as "social engineering".

This weeks nudge looks at some of those techniques and describes the outcomes that they most often generate.

Studies conducted by institutions such as the Tavistock Institute have led to a popular understanding that people are very much irrational and emotional beings that can be easily manipulated by techniques that centre on people’s insecurities and desires; often with the aim to encourage a particular reaction or opinion, or to engineer consent.

Problem, Reaction, Solution

This technique has been widely written about and will not be covered much here. The aim of this approach is as the title suggests: to provoke a desired reaction in order to justify a solution. An example would be the engineered ‘problem’ of terrorism. 

Whilst terror has existed since the dinosaurs, ‘terrorism’ is a relatively new terminology.  The idea that we are somehow threatened everyday by terrorism is a heavily promoted notion promulgated through media, movies and politics. The aim is that we, the wider public, will ‘react’ by crying out for ever more security, which enables government to legislate for more control on our daily lives.

Terrorism simply means ‘the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, most commonly for political support’; ironically, the very thing that governments do in order to garner political support for their increases in security. In a further glut of irony, such increases in security serve to further terrorise the wider population whom which the increased security purports to protect; and not the invisible ‘terrorists’ that the media claimed was the initial threat and to whom the security is allegedly aimed at.

Group Mind Manipulation

Through various studies in the 20th century, it has become relatively understood that people strive to fit in with their peers and will do almost anything to avoid standing out. The Solomon Asch Conformity Experiments of the 1960’s are fine examples of which illustrate just how important, or influential, the group mind is. Asch’s experiments demonstrate that, even when it is beyond doubt that a behavior or piece of information is wrong, approx. 2/3 of people will still mimic the actions of a majority group that choose to behave or answer incorrectly, if the only alternative is to appose that group.

This understanding is cleverly used in popular culture to persuade people to behave or react in a particular way. Celebrities and officials are used as ‘group leaders’ that lead people in a certain direction. Large groups of people then strive to emulate their behavior or opinions in a bid to conform to what they believe is a socially acceptable behavior or point of view.

As a ‘new’ behavior or opinion becomes more popular more people will begin to conform because of a fear of derision or being chastised or singled out for having a different opinion or behavior. The more popular a behavior or opinion becomes the harder it becomes to oppose it.

What Asch’s experiments, as well as others, have demonstrated, is that roughly two thirds of people conform in this way; an over whelming majority of people.


Polling was initially first used in the run up to the First World War, in order to persuade the British Public to support the war against Germany. Polling is a less sophisticated version of group mind manipulation, but ultimately works in the same way. Polling preys upon our desire to be accepted, but it also seeks to sway our opinions and / or decision to act on them by showing us the probability of which our opinions and actions will be met with acceptance or opposition.

When presented with the notion that our own opinion on a particular subject is supported by the majority percentage of the country or group of people, we are more likely to be vocal and open about our opinions; when presented with the alternative --- that is the majority percentage does not support our opinions --- we are more likely to keep our opinions to ourselves, or we may even change our opinion to suit the group mind.

Polling is especially effective when used in conjunction with particular stories. In the example of the recent election, we saw lots of stories illustrating just how terrible the country would be under Labour, next to polls that suggested that Labour and the Conservatives were neck and neck (as we had in the run up to the election). Such a technique instills in people just how important their vote is and will therefore move people to vote in opposition to the impending doom, as was the case in the last election.

Could it be that the polls had gotten people’s opinions so wrong, or that so many people changed their mind on the last day? Or, was it more likely that the polls were used in a way to encourage more neutral voters to vote Conservative?

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer is a very old technique that has been used throughout time to weaken large groups of people in order to control them. Nothing new there. However, in more contemporary times, Divide and Conquer has been applied psychologically to further divide groups of people in order to gain a particular outcome or eradicate a particular thing, as oppose to eradicating groups of people. A good example would be the ongoing effort to eradicate the benefit / welfare system. 

On a daily basis, the media uses the relatively few incidences of people abusing the system, in comparison to the millions of people that actually use the welfare system correctly, to suggest that nearly all those that use welfare are lazy, feckless and worthless individuals, in order to create a division between those that support welfare and those that do not. 

If we ask people in the street what their opinions are of those people on welfare, the vast majority will reply that those people are lazy and worthless. The sickening irony is that most people are on some sort of welfare, either through tax credits, family allowances or even a pension system, and, whilst they deride those on benefits, what they so often fail to see is that the agenda to eradicate welfare would see their own benefits being cut and eventually eradicated too. Such is the power of the constant drip drip of media power to divide and conquer people that even people that use the welfare system deride people that use the welfare system.

Divide and conquer is often the result of many other engineering techniques, since it is between the schism in society that would be engineers are able to plant ideas and compromises. When groups of people are set against each other they are much easier to manipulate, but, more importantly, they are unable to resist effectively any change which may threaten both or either group, and, whilst both or more groups are arguing amongst themselves about their differences, they are not concentrating on the real agendas which are slipping past them unnoticed. An example might be the NHS; whilst people are arguing about the merits and cons of private and public services, our health service is being sold off into the hands of a few, powerful corporations before we have made a decision.

Divide and conquer can be seen as a chipping away at society, taking away the rights and voices of small groups one by one. It relies upon Group Mind Manipulation, knowing that most people will seek the comfort of the larger group and ultimately show little, if any, support for the ‘marginalised’ group. It is therefore most common that divide and conquer centres on dividing the many from the few.

Political Correctness

Political correctness is a sophisticated tool that is often used within a divide and conquer process by labeling targets with undesirable descriptions (see labeling below). It is a self policing tool that has crippled certain sections of society from speaking out against certain agendas for fear of ridicule and ostracization.  

Whilst it may seem as polite discourse to many, political correctness is one of the most effective and dangerous psychological tools applied to the wider public in order to control the way we think.

People who speak out against political agendas, and whom can see how the promotion of the such agendas are being used to erode society in a way that does not seem so obvious to the wider public, are often chastised, ridiculed and ostracized by the politically correct, or, in more extreme cases prosecuted.

Political correctness is a prison for the mind, which disables people from being able to look at a topic objectively, because they are unable to see past a cleverly constructed political opinion in fear of being ridiculed by other people (another form of Group Mind Manipulation).

Political Correctness is also a platform for social reform and changing culture as well as preventing people from having and expressing their own beliefs, such as many Christian’s beliefs regarding homosexuality, or some indigenous beliefs regarding immigration. Whilst we may disagree with people’s beliefs, political correctness should be considered an aberration in a ‘free speech’ society.


This technique is very closely related to political correctness, and is yet another form of divide and conquer. Not a single person who reads this article will avoid the label of ‘Conspiracist’ should they ever voice the notion that society is controlled, or that there are hidden agendas at work to change and manipulate society for the benefit of a few.

Labeling begins at school. It begins in the playground, as well as with many other labels such as grading, houses, as well as descriptions that describe a child’s ‘performance’ in school or, even, by our peers and parents. More often than not, our experiences of labeling are negative ones: fat; ginger; stupid; ugly; poor, and so on. These traumas have a lasting effect on our psyche as we grow up. Most people in society fear being branded as some form of undesirable and this fear is a contributing factor to those who choose not to speak out or act outside of social conformity. 

Labeling is yet another form of mind control / group mind manipulation, as most people seek to ‘fit in’ and be branded with one of those good labels such as, ‘nice guy’ or ‘successful’, and not one of those nasty labels such as ‘racist’ or ‘anti-semitic’. 

As with most social engineering techniques this technique acts as a deterrent against those who might choose to act differently or have differing opinions to ‘status quo’ that is generated by the opinions of the state.


Education is, of course, a major player in social engineering. Past education syllabus‘ have sought to instill in young people varying methods of critical analysis, which has enabled people in adulthood to critically asses the world around them. Modern syllabus‘ focus more heavily on training individuals to think a certain way, or, rather, to avoid those opinions that differ from the state. This was discussed in more detail in the previous Nudge.

Social engineering is not always about what people are told to think, but also it relies upon emitting certain information from society, such as the British Constitution, for example. Through omitting information engineers are able to create generations of people that are unaware of critical information that would enable them to make more informed decisions; for what a person does not know, he cannot form an opinion of.

Through the control of the education system engineers are able to control entire generations and, ultimately, the future; for what children are taught to think today, will become the dogmas and opinions of people in the future.

Fear and Relief

Fear and relief is a very simple technique that has been used by many a political establishment to introduce new rulings or persuade people to ‘buy’ into and support an action. Following a perceived threat, it is in the relief phase that the subject(s), or rather targets, will become much more compliant or trusting of the aggressor.

Politically we can find this in media stories whereby we are told that there was an impending threat by some form of terror group that was then foiled by security services. The purpose of this technique is to build trust and acceptance. Unlike the problem, reaction, solution technique this technique is applied in a more casual and unrelenting phase in order for us to feel comfortable in accepting the ruling establishment.

We have recently witnessed this during the election campaign when the media illustrated the awful tax increases and impending collapse of wealth should labour take control, which was followed, so we were informed by the media, by a wave of relief across the country when the Conservatives regained control and expelled the threat of Labour.

State of Confusion

State of confusion seeks to generate apathy and paralysis. A great example would be health. Each week we hear that cholesterol is good for us, then its bad, then it’s good. State of Confusion might be described as a divide and conquer technique for the mind, as a person might be so torn between the conflicting information that he has been presented with, that he is effectively defeated by his own confusion and rendered incapable of making a proper, informed decision.

The political spectrum is much like this. One year labour is left, then it is right, then it is centre, then it is a combination of all positions; as is Conservative. This continuing flip flopping of positions leaves people unable to make an informed decision and will, inevitably, cause people to only make a decision on the most recent piece of contrived information the media presents us with, enabling the political classes to cajole the population into making whichever decision suits its agenda best at any time it desires. The confusion that is inevitably created has the added effect that it erodes  history, as one can never quite remember who or what was real and what was the lie.


Synthesis is a very long term technique and is, ultimately, the goal and means for which all of the above techniques are applied. Synthesis involves a ‘thesis’, that is an idea that is widely accepted, and an ‘anti-thesis’, which is an opinion or idea which opposes the thesis; which is most often the thing, idea or culture the engineers wish to introduce. Synthesis thus describes the gradual integration of the antithesis with the thesis. 

First the antithesis and those that support it demand a tolerance, that is a right to be left alone. Then, once this position has been assumed using any number or combination of the above techniqyes, there will come the right to be accepted, and, along with it the same rights as the original thesis. Once this position is assumed there will come the right to be celebrated, the right to participation of all without prejudice and then ultimately the ridicule or punishment of those that oppose what was originally the antithesis. 

Synthesis is a gradual step by step process that involves ‘baby steps’ so small that few people will notice. Such a technique is easily applied in a ‘liberated’ / ‘tolerant’ society because it initially relies upon the right to be tolerated. Any of the above techniques can and will be used in order to integrate the antithesis with the thesis. Synthesis is used to describe the change that society is subjected to, and each incremental phase is generally made concrete through legislation and policy so as to ensure that there is no going back once a particular stage is completed.