Subliminal Hacking
The Art and Science of Social Engineering


March 16, 2010

Neuro Linguistic Programing…. Art or Science

Next we shall talk about Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP has become more well known over the years now, but there is still some controversy and taboo on the subject.

Wikipedia Definition – Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a controversial approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on “a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them” and “a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour”

In the 1970’s Richard Bandler (Maths Student) and John Grinder (Linguistics Professor) came up with a process called “Neuro Linguistic Programming”. This process was derived from studying, and duplicating the work they observed of great communicators and therapists (Erickson, Perls, and Satir). Essentially what this means is they looked and listened, and they replicated what they observed, and tweaked and modified neuro and linguistic components to amazing results in many cases.

Notice I didn’t mention the word science. The reason for this is, the work done to establish NLP wasn’t a science, its a process or art. There is lots of debate on this subject, and if NLP is or isn’t effective. I am not an NLP Practitioner, I just utilise the techniques both in my work and with myself, and find it interesting. If it makes sense and works for you, fantastic,  if not acknowledge what it is and form your own opinion and move on.

So what happens with NLP, what is the art / process involved.

NLP came out of viewing what a therapist is doing, the stance, the words, the process. Then essentially just replication, and testing in a similar way. Then when a process worked, it was documented as to how it was believed to have occurred, and then a pattern was derived. These patterns could then be retested, and tweaked etc etc. These patterns grew overtime, and were improved and expanded based on further observation, experience and testing.

So how do these patterns work. Personally I see alot of similarities here with hypnosis. The patterns, are a structure of words, its how they are delivered, the rapport that is built up, the confidence of the practitioner, and belief of the subject. It important also to understand NLP can be used on yourself or on someone else. So in its simplest form, NLP is about using a structure and language that makes sense and builds credibility, and from this creating a frame to work and build upon. I see it as associating positive thoughts and feelings, and creating association, replace / removing the negative frame.

This may sound confusing, or it may sound strangely simple. Let me put this to you. If someone was to constantly tell you multiple times a day you are bad at something, your terrible, you cant do anything right, etc etc. It wont take long for this association to stick. You will feel bad about yourself, you will fail, as you believe this to be true. If the opposite where to happen, you would feel good about yourself, confident, look to succeed and expect nothing else. Pop Idol and X-Factor shows are a perfect example, some of these people really do suck, but someone has been telling they can sing all their life, and regardless of the facts, they believe they can. 🙂

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little o f this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
- Â   Albert Einstein

As with the other topics discussed so far, there is alot of material available to read and view. These posts are just aimed as a brief introduction, to give a basic understanding of the theme and principles. They are of course my thoughts and opinions, I encourage people to question, comment, and give them view to make the information available here even more valuable.

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    About the Author

    Dale Pearson
    has worked in IT since 1998, Infosec since 2004, and studied and performed hypnosis, mentalism etc since 2009. Dale is a full time Red Teamer with a love of social engineering and qualified hypnotherapist. He spends a great deal of time researching the various skills and techniques that make up the art and science of Social Engineering.


    1. The reason that there’s so much similarity with Hypnosis is that Grinder and Bandler spent absolutely inordinate amounts of time with Milton Erickson….

    2. Dale

      thanks for posting. I know your know your stuff in with regards to NLP and SE, so thanks for reading.
      The point about similarities, is really to explain that words, are words. There is more to it than just the verbal.

    3. Peter Skibsted


      I am a University student writing a dissertational thesis on the topic of Social Engineer. My title reads “The impact of Social Engineering on business networks in the 21st Century”

      Can you shed any light on the impact of SE?


    4. Dale

      Peter, thats a very broad request.
      Social Engineering is a term that defines in more detail the approaches, skills and techniques that con men have been using throughout history, and of course the manipulation of individuals and situations that we all take part in on a daily basis.

      In the context of business networks, the impact is really around the fact that as we become more reliant on technology and comfortable with sharing our daily lives on social media, we provide an ever increasing pool of information that the social engineer can leverage to create effective and information attack approaches.
      This results in an increased ability to build rapport and trust with a target, leading to an increased chance in the revelation of disclosure that may not be in the best interest of the individual or organisation that has been targeted.

      Hope this helps at a high level.

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