Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evading it. This is like single combat, Son, only on a larger scale — a feint within a feint within a feint…seemingly without end. The task is to unravel it.
—Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
A feint can be used as a test, to gather information, or a trap, to get someone to do what you want them to do, or both.
The most important part to understand is that the opponent is inherently involved in the situation. You can only gain advantage from a feint depending on the way he or she (re)acts.
A savvy person will react with exactly the right amount of effort, especially important because a feint is only a mock attack. In Tai Chi terms, they balance an opponent’s yin (expansion) with yang (compression), and vice-versa1. In Taoist terms, they act like a mirror, reflecting only that which is in front of them, nothing more and nothing less. With a savvy person, the feint fails, and nothing is gained.
An ignorant person will fall for the trick. They overreact and unbalance themselves2, exposing their vulnerabilities. Without understanding true intention, without seeing the big picture, they get played like a sucker.
And the more they react, the more ridiculous they look.