Master suppression techniques

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The master suppression techniques is a framework articulated in 1945 by the Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen.[1] These techniques identified by Nissen are ways to indirectly suppress and humiliate opponents. In the late 1970s, the framework was popularized by Norwegian social psychologist Berit Ås,[2] 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, where the expression is also used to refer to types of social manipulation not part of Ås's framework.[3] Master suppression techniques are sometimes called domination techniques.[4]

The five master suppression techniques according to Ås[edit]

Making invisible[edit]

To silence or otherwise marginalize people in opposition by ignoring them.


  • Another speaker takes something you have said as if it were their idea, 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.


In a manipulative way to portray the arguments of, or their opponents themselves, in a ridiculing fashion.


  • When making an accusation of wrongdoing against someone, you are being told that you look cute when you're angry.

Withhold information[edit]

To exclude a person from the decision making process, or knowingly not forwarding information so as to make the person less able to make an informed choice.


  • Your colleagues have a meeting that concerns you, without inviting you.
  • 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.

Double bind[edit]

To punish or otherwise belittle the actions of a person, regardless of how they act.


  • When you do your work tasks thoroughly, you receive complaints for being too slow. When you do them efficiently, you're critiqued for being sloppy.

Heap blame/put to shame[edit]

To embarrass someone, or to insinuate that they are themselves to blame for their position.


  • You inform your manager that you are being slandered, but are told it is your fault since you dress provocatively.

Later additions by Ås[edit]

Berit Ås has since added two supplementary master suppression techniques.[5]


To discuss the appearance of one or several persons in a situation where it is irrelevant.

Force/threat of force[edit]

To threaten with or use one's physical strength towards one or several persons.


  • "One more word from you and I'll smash your face!"

Later additions by Camilla Ländin[edit]

Camilla Ländin, a Swedish author, has after extensive research added even more supplementary master suppression techniques.[6]

* Psychological projection. "you're the one to talk..." instead of taking responsibility.

* Compliments. "You who are so good" in order to avoid the effort.

* Hierarchies. "I'm the one who decides" or "I'm so insignificant".

* Time. That something is new is the only argument for or that something is dissected because it is old.

* Stereotyping. Reduce an individual to be representative of their gender or age or something.

* Victim playing, acting like a victim in order to gain benefits

* The diminishing. A form of reduction by breaking the one who tells.

Later additions by Pär Ström[edit]

Pär Ström, a Swedish author, has in his book Mansförtryck och kvinnovälde developed further Master Suppression Techniques specifically practices by women.[7] The book had a focus on asymmetrical feminism and thus highlighted unfair hegemony within families.

Except for Ridicule, Heap blame/put to shame, Making invisible, Ström also identified:

* Use of the F-weapon. To use femininity as a method to reach ones goals (usually used towards men)

* To make Suspect. To make a person a suspect, often used with arguments such as "to avoid risk", regarding childcare or stereotyping risk of violence.

* Use of the C-weapon. To used Children as a weapon (similar to the F-weapon) but is specifically used to use the Children as a leverage, in combination with dealing with the authorities.

Master Suppression Techniques by Elaine Eksvärd[edit]

Elaine Eksvärd, a Swedish author, mentions in her book Härskartekniker several techniques, which are similar to the ones above. These are:

* Projection method. The projection method is where you express your dissatisfaction of something, but the suppressor concludes that you are the problem, or that it is your problem to solve. The focus has therefore shifted from what you wanted to say or comment on, to yourself and your feelings.

* Compliment method.The feeling when you get a compliment or a pad on your shoulder and you know that something is expected of you? It is called the complimenting method. It may be that your boss or colleague, before asking you to work late, gives you a compliments. Despite the compliments you feel discomfort or a sense of being used.

* Stereotype method. Stereotype method is used when you violate different stereotypes. It may be that you do something that goes beyond the norm for what is expected of you depending on e.g. your sex, sexuality or ethnicity. It may also be that the suppression is based on stereotypes and preconceived ideas in a conversation with you, which may make you feel excluded or labeled.

* Martyr method. The martyr method is similar to Victim playing which is mentioned above, which refers to acting like a victim in order to gain benefits.

* Exclusion method. The exclusion method has much in common with the making invisible technique (mentioned above). For example, attention is not directed towards you when you talk or someone immediately stops listening to you when someone else enters the room.

* Hierarchy method. This method means that a person uses his/hers high or low rank in the hierarchy to suppress someone else. It may be that a manager uses his or her power position towards his/hers employees or gives you stereotypical titles and epithets, linked to the gender categories women and man.

* Time method. The time method is about silencing or suppressing someone by pointing out that you have been with the company longer than the other person has. It may be that you point out that you are older and therefore have more experience or that you have been in the workplace longer and know what works or you have been in a group longer and therefore know the group dynamics better. This method is used to silence others and thus get the advantage.[8]

Countermeasures against master suppression techniques[edit]

A group of PhD students at Stockholm University[9] has formulated five counter strategies:

  • Take place
  • Questioning
  • The cards on the table
  • Break the pattern
  • Intellectualise

They have also formulated five confirmation techniques:

  • Visualizing
  • Adherence
  • Inform
  • Double reward
  • Confirm reasonable standards

The Centre for Gender Equality in Norway has also published an article about how to combat this phenomenon.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ingjald Nissen, Psykopatenes diktatur 1945.
  2. ^ Ås, Berit. "Hersketeknikker". Kjerringråd. Oslo (1978:3): 17–21. ISSN 0800-0565.
  3. ^ Andrén, Maria (2008-03-11). "Så hanterar du skitsnacket". Chef. Ledarna. Archived from the original on 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
  4. ^ "Domination techniques: what they are and how to combat them" (PDF). The Centre for Gender Equality, Norway. April 2001. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  5. ^ Ås, Berit (2004). "The Five Master Suppression Techniques". In Evengård, Birgitta (ed.). Women In White: The European Outlook. Stockholm: Stockholm City Council. pp. 78–83. ISBN 91-631-5716-0.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Karolinska Institutet ”Master suppression Techniques”, 2020-06-16
  9. ^ ENSU, Empowerment-Nätverket vid Stockholms Universitet (2004) ”Bekräftartekniker och motstrategier - sätt att bemöta maktstrukturer och förändra sociala klimat.”, 2010-07-01
  10. ^ Domination techniques: what they are and how to combat them

External links[edit]