Ahhh, the Holidays are here. Many people use this time to gather with family and friends. Endless hours of conversing together, eating together, and playing games together. Don’t look at these opportunities as simply maintaining status quo, or doing your requisite duty, but look at these events as a social engineer’s playground. You’re stuck there, you had might as well make the best of it, right? Like we did last year, we wanted to give you some ideas of fun little games you can play while surrounded by the ones you love, or maybe just like.

Reciprocation Games

These games make use of one of the principles of influence, reciprocation. The ‘foot-in-the-door technique’ is a technique where you get your target to be compliant or to say “yes” to small mundane tasks with the explicit intent of getting them to say “yes” to larger requests. The psychology behind this is that by getting them to say “yes” to something increases the chances they’ll say “yes” to future requests, so start out small and work your way up.

So here’s what you do, try to see how many “yeses” you can get out of your targets and keep track. Keep escalating and escalating to larger and larger requests. You can do this to everyone at the party. Try to beat your records. If you get five yeses out of Aunt Flo, try to get six out of Uncle Paul. You can also see how wacky you can get with your requests and still get compliance. Maybe your outlandish request will take three previous “yeses”; maybe it will take eight.

A variant of this game is essentially the same thing, but use the door-in-face technique. ‘Door-in-face technique’ is almost identical to foot-in-door except instead of starting with small tasks to extract a “yes”, you first begin with an elaborate, off the wall request so that they say “no”, then you concede and ask for a smaller favor or task. By conceding, you’re in essence offering the other person a gift and because they’ve received a gift, the rules of reciprocation state that they will attempt to return that gift in the form of saying “yes” to subsequent requests. Try to see how major of a request you can get them to agree to. See if the level of absurdness in the initial request has anything to do with their compliance in future requests.

Social-proof Games

For these games, you’ll have to recruit a few other friends or family members to be in on the game with you. The basic gist is you want to test social-proof and see what you can get people to do simply because others are doing it. Using the famous elevator experiment as inspiration, try to get your unsuspecting family members to behave in bizarre ways.

Go outside with your cohorts and have everyone stand facing the same way, looking up at a tree. Wait for your unsuspecting family member to join you and mirror your efforts to look into the tree.  Then, change it up.  Have everyone look down at the ground and then stare at the wall;  watch in amusement as your target mimics what you guys are doing.

Here’s another fun idea.  Take a side dish like mashed potatoes and split it into two separate dishes. Mark each dish male or female and sit back and watch to see if people “follow the rules”. You should see that men take from the male potatoes and women take from the female potatoes. Apply this to other things.  Put a male sign on one bathroom and a female sign on another one and see if people abide by the rules.

Micro Expression Games

In order to play these games, you’ll need to be well trained in Micro Expressions. If you haven’t already taken Paul Ekman’s training classes, we recommend you head over to his website and take the METT Advanced course. Those of you who have taken our 5-Day Social Engineering for Penetration Testers class have already learned all about micro expressions and are hopefully already certified. If not, get training.

This game can be a passive or an active game. To play passively, simply observe conversations and make note of micro expressions. Family interactions can be a goldmine for facial expressions so take this time to learn and understand what your family members really think about each other. To play actively, devise some topics of conversation or even jokes that should elicit a certain type of emotion. Then, purposefully bring those topics up or tell those jokes and observe the micro expressions.

Dominance Observation Games

We know that the way someone greets you can tell a lot about whether they think they’re dominant over you. For instance, when someone shakes your hand, if they turn their hand so that their hand is on top of yours during the shake, they’re exhibiting dominance over you. Also, if they grab your upper arm while they’re shaking your hand, or touch any part of your arm or body they are also exhibiting dominance.

Be observant when greeting your friends and family members. Take note of who thinks they’re dominant over you and who assumes submission. After you’ve made your list, observe these people throughout the day or evening. What other things do they do that fall in line with your original summation? Watch your dominant cousin, does she stand tall while speaking? Does she angle her body toward the person she’s communicating with? What other dominant traits and characteristics can you spot? Now, look at your submissive uncle.  Does he use a lot of filler words when speaking? Does he maintain eye contact less while speaking than while listening? What other submissive indicators can you see?

This winter season is a perfect time to hone your social engineering skill-set. You’re forced to get out and communicate with real humans IRL (in real life), you might as well make the best of it. 🙂