Concessions are used often times within the Social Engineering context as a play on the reciprocation instinct of humans. A social engineer can use the “something for something” idea or the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” principle.
Concessions, or “the act of conceding” is defined as:
- The act or an instance of conceding (as by granting something as a right, accepting something as true, or acknowledging defeat)
- The admitting of a point claimed in argument
The basics of concessions and reciprocity can be broken down into four steps:
- Label your concessions:
- Make it known when and what you are conceding, this will make it difficult for your mark to ignore the urge to reciprocate.
- Demand and define reciprocity:
- Step 1 plants the seeds of reciprocation and Step 2 will increase our chances of getting something in return.
- Make contingent concessions:
- The are “risk-free” concessions that can be used when trust is low or when you need to signal that you are ready to make other concessions.
- Make concessions in installments:
- The idea of reciprocity is deeply ingrained in our minds. Most people feel that if someone does them a favor then they are socially contracted to eventually return that favor. Similarly, if someone is to make a concession, say in a negotiation or bargaining agreement, then we will instinctively feel obligated to “budge” a little bit too.
Use and Abuse
A successful social engineer can (ab)use this instinctual tendency to not only resist the manipulations being placed on them by others but to try to take over the situation completely. The skill of concessions and reciprocation play well with many of the other social engineering techniques discussed with the Framework. (see Psychological Principles)
An example of how many people fall for concessions can be illustrated with telemarketers who call for donations. This is a strategy for gaining concessions after someone is first given the opportunity to turn down a large request . The same requester counter offers with a smaller request that you are more likely to accept than the large request.
Large request: “Can you donate $200 to our charity?”
Response: “No, I can not.”
Smaller request: “Oh I’m sorry (Sir/Mam), how about $20?”
With this, people who are not aware of this technique might feel like the burden is taken off of them and realize they can part with a mere $20 rather than the initial asking price of $200.
Another great example was found in this article, How To Negotiate The Salary Using The Power of The Norm Of Reciprocity where it stated:
- “The power of this norm can be felt in most bargaining situations. Assume a buyer and a seller are haggling over the price of a car. The seller starts out with a bid at $24,000. The buyer finds this offer unacceptable and makes a counter bid at $15,000. Now, the seller lowers his bid to $20,000, i.e. he makes a concession. In this case, the buyer will most often feel inclined to increase his bid, maybe to $17,000. The reason why the buyer will feel this inclination is because of the presence of the norm of reciprocity. This norm now demands that the buyer responds to the seller’s concession with another concession.”