Master Suppression Techniques

withholding information

The Master suppression techniques (also known as domination techniques), articulated in 1945 by Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen, is an outline of ways to indirectly suppress and humiliate opponents. In the late 1970s the framework was popularized by Norwegian social psychologist Berit Ås, who reduced Nissen’s original nine means to five, and claimed this was a technique mostly used in the workplace by men against women. Master suppression techniques are defined as strategies of social manipulation by which a dominant group maintains such a position in a (established or unexposed) hierarchy. They are very prominent in Scandinavian scholarly and public debate.

The five master suppression techniques are: Making Invisible (silencing or otherwise marginalizing persons in opposition by ignoring them), Ridiculing (portraying opponents and their arguments as absurd and worthy of mocking), Withholding Information (excluding opponents from the decision making process, or limiting their access to information so as to make them less able to make an informed choice), Double Binding (punishing or otherwise belittling the actions of opponents, regardless of how they act), and Blaming and Shaming (embarrassing opponents by insinuating that they are themselves to blame for their position).

An example of making invisible is when another speaker takes something you have said as if it was an idea of their own, or starts speaking despite it being your turn. As it is your turn to speak, the other attendees start to talk to each other, browse through their papers, etc. An example of ridiculing could be if another speaker laughs at your accent and compares you to a character in a humorous TV show (although you had something important to say), or when making an accusation of wrongdoing against someone, you are being told that you look cute when you’re angry.

Withholding information often comes in the form of colleagues having a meeting that concerns you, without inviting you, or when decisions are made not in a conference where everyone is present, but at a dinner party later in the evening, where only some attendants have been invited. A double bind, might be when you do your work tasks thoroughly, but receive complaints for being too slow, and when you do them efficiently, you’re critiqued for being sloppy. An example of blaming and shaming is when you inform your manager that you are being slandered, but are told it is your fault since you dress provocatively.

Berit Ås has since added two supplementary master suppression techniques: Objectifying (discussing the appearance of one or several persons in a situation where it is irrelevant) and Threatening Force. A group of PhD students at Stockholm University formulated Counter strategies to the first five methods: Taking Place, Questioning, Putting the Cards on the Table, Breaking the Pattern, and Intellectualizing. They have also formulated five confirmation techniques: Visualizing, Adhering, Informing, Double Rewarding, and Confirming Reasonable Standards.


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