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 persons in opposition by ignoring them.


  • 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.


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


  • Another speaker laughs at your accent and compares you to a character in a humorous TV show (although you had something important to say).
  • 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!"

Countermeasures against master suppression techniques[edit]

A group of PhD students at Stockholm University[6] 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.[7]


  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. ^ ENSU, Empowerment-Nätverket vid Stockholms Universitet (2004) ”Bekräftartekniker och motstrategier - sätt att bemöta maktstrukturer och förändra sociala klimat.”, 2010-07-01
  7. ^ Domination techniques: what they are and how to combat them

External links[edit]