You probably think of pinky swears as a childhood game that marks a promise, but American Horror Story: Cult is changing that. Evan Peters' Kai linked pinkies with Billie Lourd's Winter in the Season 7 premiere, and the game returned the next episode. The pinky game on AHS: Cult seems to transfers your fear to the other person touching you. And in the episode "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," Winter plays the pinky game with Oz, Ally and Ivy's son. Whether the game's effects are psychological or Winter and Kai have a supernatural power is unclear, but Kai's tactic is certainly spreading as fear takes over his Michigan town after the 2016 presidential election.
If you ever made a pinky swear as a child, it may have held significant importance for you and other participant. There's a superstitious element, in that linking your fingers means that you can't break your promise. It's also slightly threatening. Kai is a master at being threatening, and when he facilitates a pinky session, he taps into the fear that comes from potentially breaking an oath. But linking pinkies also does appear to make people tell the truth. It seems also to bring comfort to the people who are on the receiving end of this ritual.
After Hillary Clinton loses the 2016 presidential campaign in the first episode, Winter is distraught. Kai puts out his pinky and when Winter links it, she immediately opens up and admits, "I'm just so scared now." As Winter is most likely a member of Kai's cult, she gives in to the game, which Kai says results in "the naked truth, brutal honesty."
The transition of fear element is more obvious in "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," when Winter makes Ally and Ivy's son play. She tells Oz, "I'm going to show you a trick. It's going to help you," since he's scared of the clowns who murdered his neighbors. While she also focuses on how you can't lie during the flesh-to-flesh connection, she also says, "You're going to give me your fear, Oz. I'm going to keep it for you. It's going to make us both stronger." And linking pinkies with Winter really does make Oz feel less afraid. When he's worried the clowns will return before going to bed, he says to his nanny, "Maybe we should do the pinky thing again."
With these limited examples, the pinky linking game appears to be less of a game and more the major tactic of control behind Kai's cult. By linking to someone who is more afraid than you, people in Kai's cult may be gaining the strength to conquer fear. The person on the other end also feels better since their fears go away, but this practice is far from altruistic. Instead, it's a power play presumably created by Kai to acquire followers for his cult where the unafraid people will terrorize others until they have complete control. And if that seems like an exaggeration, the importance of the game to all of AHS Season 7 is made clear in the opening credits for Cult since the intro ends with two people handcuffed together linking pinkies.
While Winter does seem to gain power from taking Oz's fear from him, the pinky game could also just be a mind game. After all, she says, "People are going to believe what they're going to believe. The trick is figuring out what they want to believe and then giving it to them" — right before easing Oz's fear with the game. But in the world of AHS, it often doesn't matter what's real or what's imagined when it comes to fear and that's never been as true as it is now in Season 7's Cult.