Manipulation Social Influence Tactics

Once social environments are selected, evocation does not exhaust the set of processes that link personality with the social world. Manipulation, or social influence, include all the ways in which people intentionally try to change the behavior of others. No malicious intent need be implied by the term manipulation, although such intent is not excluded either. A parent might influence a child not to cross between parked cars but we would not call this behavior malicious. Indeed, part of social living is that we influence others all the time. Thus, the term manipulation is used here descriptively , with no negative connotation.

From an evolutionary perspective (see Chapter 8), natural selection favors people who successfully manipulate objects in their environment. Some manipulable objects are inanimate, such as the raw materials used to build shelters, tools, clothing, and weapons. Other manipulable objects are alive, including predators and prey of different species as well as mates, parents, children, rivals, and allies of the same species. The manipulation of other people can be summarized as the various means by which we influence the psychology and behavior of other people

The process of manipulation can be examined from two perspectives within personality psychology. First, we can ask, "Are some individuals consistently more manipulative than others?" Second, we can ask, "Given that all people attempt to influence others, do stable personality characteristics predict the sorts of tactics tha are used?" Do extraverted people, for example, more often use the charm tactic, whereas introverts use the silent treatment tactic?

A Taxonomy of 11 Tactics of Manipulation

A taxonomy is simply a classification scheme—the identification and naming groups within a particular subject field. Taxonomies of plants and animals, for example, have been developed to identify and name all the major plant and animal groups. The periodic table is a taxonomy of elements in the known universe. The Big Five personality traits that we examined in Chapter 3 is also an attempt to develop a taxonomy of the major dimensions of personality . In this section, we will look at the development of a taxonomy of tactics of manipulation—an attempt to identify and name the major ways in which people attempt to influence others in their social world.

A taxonomy of tactics of manipulation was developed through a two-step procedure: (1) nominations of acts of influence and (2) factor analysis of self-reports an observer-reports of the previously nominated acts (Buss, 1992; Buss et al., 1987). The act nomination procedure (see Chapter 2) was as follows: "W e are interested in the things that people do to influence others in order to get what they want. Please thin of your [romantic partner, close friend, mother, father, etc.]. How do you get this person to do something? What do you do? Please write down specific behaviors or act that you perform in order to get this person to do things. List as many dif ferent sorts of acts as you can."

After this list was generated, the researchers converted it into a questionnaire that could be administered via self-report or observer report. You can see for yourself how this was done by taking the test in the Exercise below to find out what tactic of social influence you use


INSTRUCTIONS: When you want your partner to do something for you, what are you

likely to do? Look at each of the following items and rate how likely you are to do each

when you are trying to get your partner to do something. None of them will apply to all

situations in which you want your partner to do something, so rate how likely you are,

in general, to do what is described. If you are extremely likely to do it, write a "7" in

the blank next to the item. If you are not at all likely to do it, write a "1" in the blank

next to the item. If you are somewhat likely to do it, write a "4" in the blank. Give

intermediate ratings for intermediate likelihood of performing the behaviors.

_ 1.

I compliment her/him so that she/he will do it.

_ 2.

I act charming so she/he will do it.

_ 3.

I try to be loving and romantic when I ask her/him.

_ 4.

I give her/him a small gift or card before I ask.

_ 5.

I don't respond to her/him until she/he does it.

_ 6.

I ignore her/him until she/he does it.

_ 7.

I am silent until she/he does it.

_ 8.

I refuse to do something she/he likes until she/he does it.

_ 9.

I demand that she/he do it.

_ 10.

I yell at her/him until she/he does it.


I criticize her/him for not doing it.

Exercise (Continued)

_ 12. I threaten her/him with something if she/he does not do it.

_ 13. I give her/him reasons that she/he should do it.

_ 14. I point out all the good things that will come from doing it.

_ 16. I show her/him that I would be willing to do it for her/him.

_ 21. I allow myself to be debased so that she/he will do it.

22. I lower myself so that she/he will do it.

23. I act humble so that she/he will do it.

24. I act submissive so that she/he will do it.

You can find out your scores by simply adding up your scores in clusters of four: items 1-4 = charm tactic; items 5-8 = silent treatment tactic; items 9-12 = coercion tactic; items 13-16 = reason tactic; items 17-20 = regression tactic; items 21-24 = self-abasement tactic. The tactics you tend to use the most are those with the highest sums. The tactics you use the least are those with the lowest sums. This is an abbreviated version of the instrument used in the studies by Buss, 1992.

A large number of participants completed versions of an expanded instrument, consisting of 83 acts of influence or tactics. Factor analysis was then used to identif clusters of acts of influence, or tactics. In all, 1 tactics were discovered through this procedure, as shown in T able 15.5.

Table 15.5 Taxonomy of 11 Tactics of Manipulation


Sample Act


try to be loving when I ask her to do it.


yell at him until he does it.

Silent treatment

don't respond to her until she does it.


explain why I want him to do it.


whine until she does it.


act submissive so that he will do it.

Responsibility invocation

get her to make a commitment to doing it.


hit him so that he will do it.

Pleasure induction

show her how much fun it will be to do it.

Social comparison

tell him that everyone else is doing it.

Monetary reward

offer her money so that she will do it.

Note: These tactics then formed the basis for subsequent analyses, such as whether there are sex differences in the tactics of manipulation and whether standard personality traits are associated with the tactics of manipulation that people use.

Note: These tactics then formed the basis for subsequent analyses, such as whether there are sex differences in the tactics of manipulation and whether standard personality traits are associated with the tactics of manipulation that people use.

A Closer Look

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  • franziska
    What are the 11 manipulation tactics?
    1 year ago
  • bonifacio
    What is manipulation in personality psychology?
    11 months ago

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