But it happens all the time - it's accepted - and it's even considered a career skill: "professional networking," "climbing the ladder," "learning how to play the political game."
I am fascinated and repulsed by this behavior. Fascinated because it's a skill, it works and it's tempting to want to know how to do it. Repulsed because it's morally totally wrong.
Of course manipulating people's emotions is not a new tactic.
- In war it is called the "Trojan Horse" strategy, i.e. we come to your city bearing gifts and then once the gates are open, the arsenal of weapons is unleashed.
- "Honeypots" are a tried-and-true espionage strategy involving the use of attractive women to elicit intelligence secrets.
People who should know better are gullible - heck I have always been gullible as hell - because they have an inherent need to be loved, accepted, and connected.
- The need for connection is why people will always rather sit alone on a hard chair in Starbucks all day, when they could just as well sit with "no one" at home, because there are other people around.
- A classic 1959 study by psychologist Harry Harlow showed that monkeys would rather have a fake cloth "mother" that hugs them, over a bare-wire surrogate that actually gives them milk. Monkeys left isolated for long periods actually mutilated themselves in agony.
- In 2014, widely published research discussed the finding that people will voluntarily administer themselves electroshock rather than be forced to stop, disconnect themselves from their various brain-immersion devices, and just think.
It's hard to admit that you are a gullible person. But not admitting it hurts a lot more. It blinds you to the obvious where a better strategy would be to look at people's motives head-on.
* All opinions my own.