The Force is with us all – and you don’t need to be a Jedi to learn a little bit about mind control. If you’d like to understand the psychology behind Jedi Mind Tricks, this is the video you’re looking for…
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Transcript below the cut.
Jedi mind control. It allows sky-walking heroes and Sith Lords to have the ability to influence and control others. Star Wars all happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – but does anything like that exist in our world today? Well in this episode, we find out that it ain’t just a Star Wars fantasy. If you want to learn about a few Jedi Mind Tricks yourself, then “this is the video you’re looking for”.
Everyone’s familiar with the saying, “May the Force be with you”, but what is the Force, exactly? Obi-Wan: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things – it surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together”. Jedi who can sense the Force around them can tap its power to manipulate the physical world. This includes gaining some sweet athletic abilities and in A New Hope, we got our first look at how the power of “The Force” can be used to control and manipulate people. Obi-Wan, Luke, and gang ride into Mos Eisley on a speeder and are confronted by Imperial Stormtroopers. Trooper: “Let me see your identification.” Obi-Wan: “You don’t need to see his identification.” Trooper: “We don’t need to see his identification” Obi-Wan: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Trooper: “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.”Obi-Wan stares this guy down like a boss, somehow makes him repeat what he wants, and avoids capture. Like magic! But this doesn’t have to be some mystical energy field that controls destiny. In the real world, we experience this kind of phenomenon through the power of suggestion.
Suggestion can be extremely influential, mostly because it relies on “response expectancies”. In other words, once we expect a particular result, our behaviors, thoughts, and reactions will actually help make that expectation occur. That’s why Han’s head moved out of the way when Greedo fired first. Han: “I’ll bet you have.” Kidding! But as an example, if you really think that you’re going to ace a test, or raise an X-wing out of a swamp, you are more likely to do so. Research has found that response expectancies play a large role in the placebo effect and unsupported medical treatments, such as hypnosis. So it doesn’t matter where the suggestion comes from – as long as the individual internalizes and believes what is said, this activates their “response expectancies”.
So in the case of the Stormtrooper: he’s hot, he’s tired, he’s been looking at droids all day and still hasn’t found the ones he’s looking for. When cool, calm Ben Kenobi comes along, he’s already expecting that it’s not them, so he waves them on without a second glance.
Another great example of mind control is in Return of the Jedi when Luke Skywalker sneaks into Jabba’s lair and is met by Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s butler. Bib: “…Skywalker!” Luke: “I must speak with Jabba. You will take me to Jabba now.” With a wave of his hand, Luke convinces Bib to let him see Jabba. But did you notice that little hesitation? It seems like he thought about it for a little bit. Did you also notice that Bib didn’t start screaming and yelling as soon as he saw Luke, before Luke could exert any Force over him? That’s because there were no Jedi powers necessary.
See, Bib knows about Luke and how powerful he is. So he’s probably thinking about what might happen to him if he doesn’t comply. In other words, Luke has the upper hand. We’ve seen this same kind of influence demonstrated through the Milgram experiment. Essentially, the experiment measured people’s willingness to obey an authority figure who instructed them to do things that conflicted with their personal conscience. In the case of the experiment, the participants thought that they were shocking a stranger with higher and higher voltage levels as a scientist leading the study “egged them on”.Participant: “Just how far can you go on this thing?” Off-screen scientist: “As far as is necessary.” Participant: “What do you mean, as far as is necessary?” Scientist: “Please continue the test.” What they found was that a majority of participants kept administering the shocks, all the way up to the maximum voltage, even after the other guy stopped responding to the shocks – leading the study participant to believe they were dead! And this was all because the authority figure, a scientist in a white lab coat, said that they should continue with the shocks. Participant: “360 volts. Something’s happened to him…I don’t know.” Scientist: “Go on, please, with the experiment. Please continue.”
So now it all makes sense. Luke is a powerful authority figure. Once he demands to see Jabba, Bib Fortuna plays the role of the obedient participant and does exactly that, even though it goes against his service to the Hutts.
Lastly, when mind control comes from the dark side, it can lead to complete control of the individual. Or, in the case of Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, converting the protagonist to the Sith by manipulating Luke’s mind to make him come to the The Emperor coaxes Luke to “give in to your anger”, so that he can gain full control of his mind. Luke fights it every step of the way, but becomes more emotional and unpredictable as time goes on. He can’t keep control much longer! But what is mind control, really? In the real world, the most effective way to control someone’s mind is through plain old psychological manipulation.
Manipulators use tried and true techniques to evoke a desired response from the victim. Let’s go through and see them in action:
Disguising motives in altruism. It’s hard to go against someone who supposedly has your best interest in mind. Emperor: “You no longer need those.” The Emperor is actually pretty upfront about his motives because he fully believes in them, but he’s able to use Luke’s family as leverage. Emperor: “By now you must know your father can never be turned from the dark side. So will it be with you.”
Appealing to emotions rather than logic. When an individual is more emotional, they tend to respond faster, without thinking it through, which makes them more prone to irrational decisions. Luke: “That’s impossible!” The Emperor uses this non-stop. Emperor: “From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance, and the end of your insignificant rebellion. You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now.”
Piggy-backing off of the last one, an easy way to get emotions flowing is by making the person feel guilty by reminding them of something you’ve done for them. Or, you know, by telling them how you’re killing all their friends. Emperor: “Your friends up there on the Centauri moon are walking into a trap, as is your rebel fleet.”
Reading body language. After getting emotions high, the Emperor can read Luke’s body language like a book and predict how he will react. He’s one step ahead of him, which makes him seem like a mind-reader. Emperor: “Strike me down with it.” Luke: “No.” Emperor: “It is unavoidable. It is your destiny.”
Finally, underneath it all, the most important technique in manipulation is understanding the person’s motivation. This helps you angle yourself in line with their thinking and gives you something to leverage. THAT’S how the Emperor got Luke on the Death Star, THAT’S how he made him fight his father, and THAT’S how he gets under his skin. Not too complicated.
In Jedi lore, it’s important to remember that mind control typically only work on the weak-minded. Intelligent beings, such as the Hutts, and ancient races, such as the Toydarians, are not so easily tricked. Watto: “What, you think you’re some kind of Jedi, waving your hand around like that?” If taken too far, it may negatively affect a person’s life or result in full mind control, which is generally associated with the dark side. In the same way, real-world mind tricks can be harmful. So use your power wisely, my young padawans! Otherwise, you may get thrown off a balcony into a reactor shaft.
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