Psychological manipulation

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Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics.[1] By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive. Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to persuade patients to change unhealthy habits. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject and is not unduly coercive. Depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation.

Requirements for successful manipulation[edit]

According to psychology author George K. Simon, successful psychological manipulation primarily involves the manipulator:

  1. concealing aggressive intentions and behaviors.
  2. knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine what tactics are likely to be the most effective.
  3. having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Consequently, the manipulation is likely to be accomplished through covert aggressive (relational aggressive or passive aggressive) means.[2]

How manipulators control their victims[edit]

According to Braiker[edit]

Clinical psychologist Harriet Braiker wrote a self help book[1] which identified the following basic ways that manipulators control their victims:

According to Simon[edit]

Simon[2] identified the following manipulative techniques:

Vulnerabilities exploited by manipulators[edit]

According to Braiker's self-help book,[1] manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities (buttons) that may exist in victims:

According to Simon,[2] manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:

Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim.

Kantor advises in his book,[3] the following are vulnerable to psychopathic manipulators:

Motivations of manipulators[edit]

Manipulators can have various possible motivations, including but not limited to:[1]

Psychological conditions of manipulators[edit]

Manipulators may have any of the following psychological conditions:[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Braiker, Harriet B. (2004). Whos Pulling Your Strings ? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation. ISBN 0-07-144672-9. 
  2. ^ a b c Simon, George K (1996). In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. ISBN 978-1935166306.  (reference for the entire section
  3. ^ Kantor, Martin (2006). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: how to deal with manipulative people. ISBN 978-0-275-98798-5. 

Other references[edit]


Academic journals[edit]