I used to host games to entertain diners at a restaurant. There was one story, and each guest would play a role in it. I handed them cards with a loosely defined script for each ‘act’ and be their guide so that the game would run smoothly and the guests would have a good time. It was a pleasant job but, because we followed the same script over and over and over, also a boring job. To make it more interesting, I started experimenting with the diners. I had noticed that if I made certain comments, certain jokes would come up frequently. After some experimenting, I learned that using a combination of two phrases, each at the right time, ensured a specific dirty joke was made by one of the diners.
Now, if I were to tell you that I had the power to cause a stranger to make a specific joke, you would think I was either mad or a dangerous mind control mastermind. I like to believe I’m neither. I cannot make a random stranger on a bus give me the contents of his wallet anymore than you can. So why was I so powerful as a game host? First of all, there was a narrow range of what a guest could say that was relevant and appropriate to his role and the phase of the story. This caused all people to think along quite specific lines. If I were to ask you to imagine yourself sitting on a toilet and taking something to wipe tears off your face, you are likely to think of toilet paper. Had you imagined yourself holding your purse, your handkerchief would come to mind. Secondly, I used two sentences that pointed in the right direction. If I would talk about how linen was made from flax before asking you to imagine wiping your tears off at a restaurant, the thought of a napkin would be activated quite strongly. Lastly, there were about a dozen guests, and only one of them has to make the dirty joke. A few people will not think as you plan because they have a slow mind or associate between different things in an unorthodox way. In addition, not everyone acts on his feelings and not everyone speaks his mind. But in a sizeable group, if most people are thinking what you intend for them to think, there is almost alway one who expresses this thought.
Here are the basic ingredients of control:
- A ritualised situation
- Multiple hints
- A fairly large number of possible reactors
Can you think of a situation that is highly ritualised and involves enough participants? How could you elicit a particular response by using hints?