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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term mind control (also known as brainwashing, coercive persuasion, thought control, or thought reform) refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated".[1] Various commentators identify broad ranges of psychological tactics seen as subverting individuals' sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions, or decision making.

Theories of brainwashing and of mind control originally developed to explain how totalitarian regimes appeared to succeed systematically in indoctrinating prisoners of war through propaganda and torture techniques. These theories were later expanded or modified by Margaret Singer and others to explain a wider range of phenomena, especially conversions to new religious movements (NRMs). Third Generation theory proposed by Ben Zablocki shifted focus to utilizing mind control to retain members of New Religious Movements. Since their application to NRMs, all theories of mind control have become controversial within scientific and legal contexts; both the American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association have found no scientific merit in such theories.[2]


The Korean War and the origin of brainwashing

The Oxford English Dictionary records its earliest known English-language usage of "brainwashing" in an article by Edward Hunter in New Leader published on 7 October 1950. During the Korean War, Hunter, who worked at the time both as a journalist and as a U.S. intelligence agent, wrote a series of books and articles on the theme of Chinese brainwashing.[3]

The Chinese term 洗腦 (xǐ năo, literally "wash brain") originally referred to methodologies of coercive persuasion used in the 改造 (gǎi zào, "reconstruction", "change", "altering") of the so-called "feudal" (封建 fēng jiàn) thought-patterns of pre-revolutionary Chinese citizens. The Maoist regime in China aimed to transform individuals with a "feudal" or capitalist mindset into "right-thinking" members of the new Chinese social system. To that end the regime developed techniques that would break down the psychic integrity of the individual with regard to information processing, information retained in the mind and individual values. Chosen techniques included dehumanizing of individuals by keeping them in filth, sleep deprivation, partial sensory deprivation, psychological harassment, inculcation of guilt and group social pressure.[citation needed] The term punned on the Taoist custom of "cleansing/washing the heart" (洗心 xǐ xīn) prior to conducting certain ceremonies or entering certain holy places.

Hunter and those who picked up the Chinese term used it to explain why, unlike in earlier wars, a relatively high percentage of American GIs defected to the enemy side after becoming prisoners-of-war. It was believed that the Chinese in North Korea used such techniques to disrupt the ability of captured troops to effectively organize and resist their imprisonment.[4] British radio operator Robert W. Ford[5] and British army Colonel James Carne also claimed that the Chinese subjected them to brainwashing techniques during their war-era imprisonment.

After the war, two studies of the repatriation of American prisoners of war by Robert Lifton[6] and by Edgar Schein[7] concluded that brainwashing (called "thought reform" by Lifton and "coercive persuasion" by Schein) had a transient effect. Both researchers found that the Chinese mainly used coercive persuasion to disrupt the ability of the prisoners to organize and maintain morale and hence to escape. By placing the prisoners under conditions of physical and social deprivation and disruption, and then by offering them more comfortable situations such as better sleeping quarters, better food, warmer clothes or blankets the Chinese did succeed in getting some of the prisoners to make anti-American statements. Nevertheless, the majority of prisoners did not actually adopt Communist beliefs, instead behaving as though they did in order to avoid the plausible threat of extreme physical abuse. Both researchers also concluded that such coercive persuasion succeeded only on a minority of POWs, and that the end-result of such coercion remained very unstable, as most of the individuals reverted to their previous condition soon after they left the coercive environment. In 1961 they both published books expanding on these findings. Schein published Coercive Persuasion[8] and Lifton published Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.[9] More recent writers like Mikhail Heller have suggested that Lifton's model of brainwashing may throw light on the use of mass propaganda in other communist states like the former Soviet Union.[10]

In a summary published in 1963, Edgar Schein gave a background history of the precursor origins of the brainwashing phenomenon:

Thought reform contains elements which are evident in Chinese culture (emphasis on interpersonal sensitivity, learning by rote and self-cultivation); in methods of extracting confessions well known in the Papal Inquisition (13th century) and elaborated through the centuries, especially by the Russian secret police; in methods of organizing corrective prisons, mental hospitals and other institutions for producing value change; in methods used by religious sects, fraternal orders, political elites or primitive societies for converting or initiating new members. Thought reform techniques are consistent with psychological principles but were not explicitly derived from such principles.[11]

Mind-control theories from the Korean War era came under criticism in subsequent years. According to forensic psychologist Dick Anthony, the CIA invented the concept of "brainwashing" as a propaganda strategy to undercut communist claims that American POWs in Korean communist camps had voluntarily expressed sympathy for communism. Anthony stated that definitive research demonstrated that fear and duress, not brainwashing, caused western POWs to collaborate. He argued that the books of Edward Hunter (whom he identified as a secret CIA "psychological warfare specialist" passing as a journalist) pushed the CIA brainwashing theory onto the general public. He further asserted that for twenty years, starting in the early 1950s, the CIA and the Defense Department conducted secret research (notably including Project MKULTRA) in an attempt to develop practical brainwashing techniques, and that their attempt failed.[12]

New religious movements (NRMs) and the shift of focus

After the Korean war applications of mind control theories in the United States shifted in focus from politics to religion. From the 1960s an increasing number of American youths started to come into contact with new religious movements, and some who converted suddenly adopted beliefs and behaviors that differed greatly from those of their families and friends; in some cases they neglected or even broke contact with their loved ones. In the 1970s the anti-cult movement applied mind control theories to explain these sudden and seemingly dramatic religious conversions.[13][14][15] The media was quick to follow suit,[16] and social scientists sympathetic to the anti-cult movement, who were usually psychologists, developed more sophisticated models of brainwashing.[14] While some psychologists were receptive to these theories, sociologists were for the most part skeptical of their ability to explain conversion to NRMs.[17] In the years that followed, brainwashing controversies developed between NRM members, various academic researchers, and cult critics.[citation needed]

Theories of mind control and religious conversion

Over the years various theories of conversion and member retention have been proposed that link mind control to NRMs, and particularly those religious movements referred to as "cults" by their critics. These theories resemble the original political brainwashing theories with some minor changes. For instance Philip Zimbardo discusses mind control as "the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes,"[18] and he suggests that any human being is susceptible to such manipulation.[19] In a 1999 book Robert Lifton also applied his original ideas about thought reform to Aum Shinrikyo, concluding that in this context thought reform was possible without violence or physical coercion. Margaret Singer, who also spent time studying the political brainwashing of Korean prisoners of war, agreed with this conclusion: in her book Cults in Our Midst she describes six conditions which would create an atmosphere in which thought reform is possible.[20]

Approaching the subject from the perspective of neuroscience and social psychology, Kathleen Taylor suggests that manipulation of the prefrontal cortex activates "brainwashing", rendering a person more susceptible to black-and-white thinking.[21] Meanwhile, in Influence, Science and Practice, social psychologist Robert Cialdini argues that mind control is possible through the covert exploitation of the unconscious rules that underlie and facilitate healthy human social interactions. He states that common social rules can be used to prey upon the unwary. Using categories, he offers specific examples of both mild and extreme mind control (both one on one and in groups), notes the conditions under which each social rule is most easily exploited for false ends, and offers suggestions on how to resist such methods.[citation needed]

Deprogramming and the anti-cult movement

Critics - both academic and non-academic - of "destructive cults" have adopted and adapted the theories of Singer, Lifton and other researchers from the inception of the anti-cult movement onwards. Such critics often argue that certain religious groups use mind control techniques to unethically recruit and maintain members. At first many of these critics advocated or engaged in deprogramming as a method to liberate group members from apparent "brainwashing". However the practice of coercive deprogramming fell out of favor in the West and exit counseling largely superseded it. For instance exit counselor Steven Hassan promotes what he calls the BITE model in his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000).[22] The BITE model describes various controls over human 1) behavior, 2) information, 3) thought, and 4) emotion.[22] Hassan claims that cults recruit and retain members by using, among other things, systematic deception, behavior modification, the withholding of information, and emotionally intense persuasion techniques (such as the induction of phobias). He refers to all of these techniques collectively as mind control.

Critics of mind control theories of conversion caution against the broader implications of these models. For instance, in the 1998 Enquete Commission report on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" in Germany a review was made of the BITE model. The report concluded that "control of these areas of action is an inevitable component of social interactions in a group or community. The social control that is always associated with intense commitment to a group must therefore be clearly distinguished from the exertion of intentional, methodical influence for the express purpose of manipulation."[23] Indeed virtually all of these models share the notion that converts are in fact innocent "victims" of mind-control techniques.[17] Hassan suggests that even the cult members manipulating the new converts may themselves be sincerely misled people.[24] By considering NRM members innocent "victims" of psychological coercion these theories open the door for psychological treatments.

Sociologists like Eileen Barker have criticized theories of conversion precisely because they function to justify costly interventions like deprogramming or exit counseling.[25] For similar reasons scholars like Barker have also criticized mental health professionals like Margaret Singer for accepting lucrative expert witness jobs in court cases involving NRMs.[25] Singer was perhaps the most publicly notable scholarly proponent of "cult" brainwashing theories, and she became the focal point of the relative demise of those same theories within her discipline.[14]

Scholarly debate

James Richardson states that if the NRMs had access to powerful brainwashing techniques, one would expect that NRMs would have high growth rates, while in fact most have not had notable success in recruitment. Most adherents participate for only a short time, and the success in retaining members has been limited.[26] For this and other reasons, sociologists like David Bromley and Anson Shupe consider the idea that "cults" are brainwashing American youth to be "implausible."[27] In addition to Bromley, Thomas Robbins, Eileen Barker, Newton Maloney, Massimo Introvigne, John Hall, Lorne Dawson, Anson Shupe, Gordon Melton, Marc Galanter, Saul Levine (amongst other scholars researching NRMs) have argued and established to the satisfaction of courts, of relevant professional associations and of scientific communities that there exists no scientific theory, generally accepted and based upon methodologically sound research, that supports the brainwashing theories as advanced by the anti-cult movement.[28]

Some sociologists disagree with this consensus. For instance, Benjamin Zablocki sees strong indicators of mind control in some NRMs and suggests that the concept should be researched without bias. Stephen A. Kent has also published several articles about brainwashing.[29][30] These scholars tend to see the APA's decision as one of no consensus while what Melton sees as a majority of scholars[31] may regard it as a rejection of brainwashing and of mind control as legitimate theories.[citation needed]

Legal issues, the APA and DIMPAC

Since their inception, mind control theories have also been used in various legal proceedings against "cult" groups. For instance, in 1980 ex-Scientologist Lawrence Wollersheim successfully sued the Church of Scientology in a California court which decided in 1986 that church practices had been conducted in a psychologically coercive environment and so were not protected by religious freedom guarantees.[citation needed] Others who have tried claiming a "brainwashing defense" for crimes committed while purportedly under mind control, like Patty Hearst, Steven Fishman and Lee Boyd Malvo have not been successful.

In 1983 the American Psychological Association (APA) asked Margaret Singer to chair a taskforce called the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC) to investigate whether brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" did indeed play a role in recruitment by such movements. Before the taskforce had submitted its final report, the APA submitted on February 10, 1987 an amicus curiæ brief in an ongoing court case related to brainwashing. The brief repudiated Singer's theories on "coercive persuasion" and suggested that brainwashing theories were without empirical proof.[32] Afterward the APA filed a motion to withdraw its signature from the brief since Singer's final report had not been completed.[33] However, on May 11, 1987, the APA's Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology (BSERP) rejected the DIMPAC report because the brainwashing theory espoused "lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur", and concluded that "after much consideration, BSERP does not believe that we have sufficient information available to guide us in taking a position on this issue."[34]

Two critical letters from external reviewers Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Jeffery D. Fisher accompanied the rejection memo. The letters criticized "brainwashing" as an unrecognized theoretical concept and Singer's reasoning as so flawed that it was "almost ridiculous."[35] After her findings were rejected Singer sued the APA in 1992 for "defamation, frauds, aiding and abetting and conspiracy" and lost.[36] Benjamin Zablocki and Alberto Amitrani interpreted the APA's response as meaning that there was no unanimous decision on the issue either way, suggesting also that Singer retained the respect of the psychological community after the incident.[37] Yet her career as an expert witness ended at this time. She was meant to appear with Richard Ofshe in the 1990 U.S. v. Fishman Case, in which Steven Fishman claimed to have been under mind control by the Church of Scientology in order to defend himself against charges of embezzlement, but the courts disallowed her testimony. In the eyes of the court, "neither the APA nor the ASA has endorsed the views of Dr. Singer and Dr. Ofshe on thought reform"[38]

After that time U.S. courts consistently rejected testimonies about mind control and manipulation, stating that such theories were not part of accepted mainline science according to the Frye Standard (Anthony & Robbins 1992: 5-29) of 1923. But two court cases since have examined testimonies about mind control in accordance with the Daubert standard[citation needed] which emerged in the 1990s.

An expanding concept

Stephen A. Kent analyzes and summarizes the use of the the brainwashing meme by non-sociologists in the period 2000-2007, finding the term useful not only in the context of "New Religions/Cults", but equally under the headings of " Teen Behavior Modification Programs; Terrorist Groups; Dysfunctional Corporate Culture; Interpersonal Violence; and Alleged Chinese Governmental Human Rights Violations Against Falun Gong".[39]

In popular culture

Print media

  • In George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949 before the popularization of the term "brainwashing"), the fictional totalitarian government of Oceania uses brainwashing-style techniques to erase nonconformist thought and rebellious personalities.
  • In the novel Night of the Hawk by Dale Brown, the Soviets capture and brainwash U.S. Air Force Lieutenant David Luger, transforming him into the Russian scientist Ivan Ozerov.
  • In the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, the protagonist undergoes a re-education process called the "Ludovico technique" in an attempt to remove his violent tendencies.
  • Vernor Vinge speculates on the application of technology to achieve brainwashing in Rainbows End (ISBN 0-312-85684-9), portraying separately the dangers of JITT (Just-in-time training) and the specter of YGBM (You gotta believe me). This picks up on themes of "mindrot" and controlled "Focus" in Vinge's 1999 novel A Deepness in the Sky.

Video media

Brainwashing became a common trope of films, television and games in the late twentieth century: a convenient means of introducing changes in the behavior of characters and a device for raising tension and audience uncertainty in the climate of Cold War and outbreaks of terrorism. For example:

  • the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate makes the concept of brainwashing a central theme. Specifically, Communist brainwashers turn a soldier into an assassin through something akin to hypnosis.
  • the 1965 film The Ipcress File, a British espionage-film directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Michael Caine, with a screenplay based on Len Deighton's 1962 novel, The IPCRESS File. The story shows U.K. top scientists subjected to brainwashing. The enemy catches Harry Palmer (the secret agent portrayed by Michael Caine) and subjects him to brainwashing through torture and hypnosis (IPCRESS stands for "Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under strESS".)
  • the 1974 film The Parallax View includes a brainwashing scene where the main character watches a film. The film shows a word followed by a picture representing that word, such as MOTHER followed by related photograph. Over time the images and words become opposites to induce reverse associativity, such as the word MOTHER followed by images of destruction.
  • the 2001 film Zoolander contains a brainwashing scene where the protagonist, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), is brainwashed into assassinating the prime minister of Malaysia.
  • the television show Dollhouse (2009- ) explores the applications and consequences of direct mind manipulation, namely through the use of computers. This show demonstrates a view of the powers of mental malleability, suggesting that entire personalities can be erased and rewritten on a whim.
  • In the film Brazil (1985 film), part of the concept is of a fascist government similar to that in George Orwell's Novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the film of the same name. In the film a totalitarian society is being controlled subconsciously by a political government that manipulates for the intent to remain in control of the population.

See also


  1. ^ Langone, Michael. "Cults: Questions and Answers". International Cultic Studies Association. Retrieved 2009-12-27. "Mind control (also referred to as 'brainwashing,' 'coercive persuasion,' 'thought reform,' and the 'systematic manipulation of psychological and social influence') refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated." 
  2. ^ Wright, Stuart A. (1997-12). "Media Coverage of Unconventional Religion: Any "Good News" for Minority Faiths?". Review of Religious Research: Official Journal of Religious Research Association, Inc. 39 (2): 101–115. doi:10.2307/3512176. ISSN 0034-673X. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  3. ^ Marks, John (1979). "8. Brainwashing". The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-0773-6. Retrieved 2008-12-30. "In September 1950, the Miami News published an article by Edward Hunter titled " 'Brain-Washing' Tactics Force Chinese into Ranks of Communist Party." It was the first printed use in any language of the term "brainwashing," which quickly became a stock phrase in Cold War headlines. Hunter, a CIA propaganda operator who worked under cover as a journalist, turned out a steady stream of books and articles on the subject." 
  4. ^ Browning, Michael (2003-03-14). "Brainwashing agitates victims into submission". Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach). ISSN 1528-5758. Retrieved 2008-07-05. "During the Korean War, captured American soldiers were subjected to prolonged interrogations and harangues by their captors, who often worked in relays and used the "good-cop, bad-cop" approach, alternating a brutal interrogator with a gentle one. It was all part of "Xi Nao," washing the brain. The Chinese and Koreans were making valiant attempts to convert the captives to the communist way of thought." 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Lifton, Robert J. (1954-04). "Home by Ship: Reaction Patterns of American Prisoners of War Repatriated from North Korea". American Journal of Psychiatry 110 (10): 732–739. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.110.10.732 (inactive 2008-06-25). PMID 13138750. Retrieved 2008-03-30.  Cited in Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism
  7. ^ Schein, Edgar (1956-05). "The Chinese Indoctrination Program for Prisoners of War: A Study of Attempted Brainwashing". Psychiatry 19 (2): 149–172. PMID 13323141.  Cited in Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism
  8. ^ Schein, Edgar H. (1971). Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-Psychological Analysis of the "Brainwashing" of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-00613-1. 
  9. ^ Lifton, RJ (1989) [1961]. Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism; a Study of "Brainwashing" in China. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4253-2. 
  10. ^ Heller, Mikhail (1988). Cogs in the Soviet Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man. Translated by David Floyd. London: Collins Harvill. ISBN 0-00-272516-9. "Dr [Robert J.] Lifton draws attention to a fact of exceptional importance: the effect of 'brainwashing' and its methods is felt even by those whom he calls the 'apparent resisters', those who seem not to succumb to the intoxication. This study showed that they do assimilate what has been hammered into their brain but the effect comes only a certain time after their liberation, like the explosion of a delayed-action bomb. It is not hard to imagine the effect which 'education' and 're-education' has upon the Soviet citizen, who is exposed from the day he is born to 'brainwashing', bombarded every day, round the clock, by all the means of propaganda and persuasion."  Heller's footnote explains the phrase "the means of propaganda and persuasion" as "[t]he official name for the means of communication in the USSR. The accepted abbreviation is SMIP [literally from the Russian phrase meaning 'means of mass information and propaganda']."
  11. ^ Schein, Edgar Henry (1963). "Brainwashing". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (14th (revised) ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. p. 91. 
  12. ^ Anthony, Dick (1999). "Pseudoscience and Minority Religions: An Evaluation of the Brainwashing Theories of Jean-Marie". Social Justice Research 12 (4): 421–456. doi:10.1023/A:1022081411463. 
  13. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (1999-12-10). "Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory". CESNUR: Center for Studies on New Religions. Retrieved 2009-06-15. "In the United States at the end of the 1970s, brainwashing emerged as a popular theoretical construct around which to understand what appeared to be a sudden rise of new and unfamiliar religious movements during the previous decade, especially those associated with the hippie street-people phenomenon." 
  14. ^ a b c Bromley, David G. (1998). "Brainwashing". in William H. Swatos Jr. (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0761989561. 
  15. ^ Barker, Eileen: New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. London: Her Majesty's Stationery office, 1989.
  16. ^ Wright, Stewart A. (1997). "Media Coverage of Unconventional Religion: Any 'Good News' for Minority Faiths?". Review of Religious Research 39 (2): 101–115. doi:10.2307/3512176. 
  17. ^ a b Barker, Eileen (1986). "Religious Movements: Cult and Anti-Cult Since Jonestown". Annual Review of Sociology 12: 329–346. doi:10.1146/ 
  18. ^ Zimbardo, Philip G. (November 2002). "Mind Control: Psychological Reality or Mindless Rhetoric?". Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved 2008-12-30. "Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively. A body of social science evidence shows that when systematically practiced by state-sanctioned police, military or destructive cults, mind control can induce false confessions, create converts who willingly torture or kill 'invented enemies,' and engage indoctrinated members to work tirelessly, give up their money—and even their lives—for 'the cause.'". 
  19. ^ Zimbardo, P (1997). "What messages are behind today's cults?". Monitor on Psychology: 14. 
  20. ^ Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, Margaret Thaler Singer, Jossey-Bass, publisher, April 2003, ISBN 0-78796-741-6]
  21. ^ Taylor, Kathleen Eleanor (December). Brainwashing: The Dream of Mind Control. Oxford University Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780192804969. Retrieved 2009-07-30. "Your susceptibility to brainwashing (and other forms of influence) has much to do with the state of your brain. This will depend in part on your genes: research suggests that prefrontal function is substantially affected by genetics. Low educational achievement, dogmatism, stress, and other factors which affect prefrontal function encourage simplistic, black-and-white thinking. If you have neglected your neurons, failed to stimulate your synapses, obstinately resisted new experiences, or hammered your prefrontal cortex with drugs (including alcohol), lack of sleep, rollercoaster emotions, or chronic stress, you may well be susceptible to the totalist charms of the next charismatic you meet. This is why so many young people baffle their more phlegmatic elders by joining cults, developing obsessions with fashions and celebrities, and forming intense attachments to often unsuitable role models." 
  22. ^ a b Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, Steven Hassan, Ch. 2, Aitan Publishing Company, 2000
  23. ^ Final Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups in the Federal Republic of Germany
  24. ^ Hassan, Steven (1988). Combatting cult mind control. Rochester, Vt: Park Street Press. ISBN 0-89281-243-5. 
  25. ^ a b Barker, Eileen (1995). "The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking!". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34 (3): 287–310. doi:10.2307/1386880. 
  26. ^ Richardson, James T. (1985-06). "The active vs. passive convert: paradigm conflict in conversion/recruitment research". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 24 (2): 163–179. doi:10.2307/1386340. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  27. ^ Brainwashing by Religious Cults
  28. ^ CESNUR - Brainwashing and Mind Control Controversies
  29. ^ Brainwashing and Re-Indoctrination Programs in the Children of God/The Family
  30. ^ Dr. Stephen A. Kent (1997-11-07) (PDF). Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Force (RPF). Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  31. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (10 December 1999). "Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory". CESNUR: Center for Studies on New Religions. Retrieved 5 September 2009. "Since the late 1980s, though a significant public belief in cult-brainwashing remains, the academic community-including scholars from psychology, sociology, and religious studies-have shared an almost unanimous consensus that the coercive persuasion/brainwashing thesis proposed by Margaret Singer and her colleagues in the 1980s is without scientific merit." 
  32. ^ CESNUR - APA Brief in the Molko Case. [t]he methodology of Drs. Singer and Benson has been repudiated by the scientific community [... the hypotheses advanced by Singer comprised] little more than uninformed speculation, based on skewed data [...] [t]he coercive persuasion theory ... is not a meaningful scientific concept. [...] The theories of Drs. Singer and Benson are not new to the scientific community. After searching scrutiny, the scientific community has repudiated the assumptions, methodologies, and conclusions of Drs. Singer and Benson. The validity of the claim that, absent physical force or threats, "systematic manipulation of the social influences" can coercively deprive individuals of free will lacks any empirical foundation and has never been confirmed by other research. The specific methods by which Drs. Singer and Benson have arrived at their conclusions have also been rejected by all serious scholars in the field.
  33. ^ Motion of the American Psychological Association to Withdraw as Amicus Curiae
  34. ^ American Psychological Association Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology (BSERP) (1987-05-11). "Memorandum". CESNUR: APA Memo of 1987 with Enclosures. CESNUR Center for Studies on New Religion. Retrieved 2008-11-18. "BSERP thanks the Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control for its service but is unable to accept the report of the Task Force. In general, the report lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur." 
  35. ^ APA memo and two enclosures
  36. ^ Case No. 730012-8 Margaret Singer v. American Psychological Association
  37. ^ Amitrani, Alberto; Di Marzio R (2001). "Blind, or just don't want to see? Mind Control in New Religious Movements and the American Psychological Association". Cultic Studies Review. 
  38. ^ Brainwashed! Scholars of Cults Accuse Each Other of Bad Faith, Lingua Franca, December 1998.
  39. ^ Kent, Stephen A. (2008). "Contemporary Uses of the Brainwashing Concept: 2000 to Mid-2007". Cultic Studies Review (International Cultic Studies Association) 7 (2): 99–128. ISSN 1539-0152. Retrieved 2010-02-09. "The brainwashing concept is sufficiently useful that it continues to appear in a wide variety of legal, political, and social contexts. This article identifies those contexts by summarizing its appearance in court cases, discussions about cults and former cult members, terrorists, and alleged victims of state repression between the years 2000 and mid-2007. In creating this summary, we discover that a physiologist has examined the biochemical aspects of persons going through brainwashing processes, and that (to varying degrees) some judges and others related to the judiciary have realized that people who have been through these processes have impaired judgment and often need special counseling. Most dramatically, a new brainwashing program may be operating in Communist China, a country whose political activities toward its own citizens in the late 1940s and 1950s spawned so much of the initial brainwashing research.". 

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Mind control is a general term for a number of controversial theories proposing that an individual's thinking, behavior, emotions or decisions can, to a greater or lesser extent, be manipulated arbitrarily by outside sources.


  • An estimated 5,000 economic, political, and religious groups operate in the United States alone at any given time, with 2.5 million members. Over the last ten years, cults have used tactics of coercive mind control to negatively impact an estimated 20 million victims in the last ten years. Worldwide figures are even greater.
  • ACLU opposes the use of mental incompetency proceedings, temporary conservatorship, or denial of government protection as a method of depriving people of the free exercise of religion, at least with respect to people who have reached the age of majority. Mode of religious proselytizing or persuasion for a continued adherence that do not employ physical coercion or threat of same are protected by the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment against action of state laws or by state officials. The claim of free exercise may not be overcome by the contention that 'brainwashing' or 'mind control' has been used, in the absence of evidence that the above standards have been violated.
  • ...the brainwashing notion implied that somehow these diverse and unconnected [religious] movements had simultaneously discovered and implemented highly intrusive behavioral modification techniques. Such serendipity and coordination was implausible given the diverse backgrounds of the groups at issue. Furthermore, the inability of highly trained professionals responsible for implementing a variety of modalities for effecting individual change, ranging from therapy to incarceration, belie claims that such rapid transformation can routinely be accomplished by neophytes against an individual's will.
    • Bromley, D.B. , Shupe, A.D. , Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare, Beacon Press, Boston, (1981)
  • Given the problematic nature of scientific support for brainwashing based theories as they are applied to participants in new religions, it is reasonable to ask why such evidence was ever admitted [into court testimony], and why it is sometimes still admitted. The most plausible answer has to do with the operation of biases, prejudices, and misinformation in these cases that involve controversial parties and issues or, as Kassin and Wrightsman (1988) say: cases involving emotional topics over which public opinion is polarized.
    • James T. Richardson and Gerald Ginsburg
  • This association considers that there is insufficient research to permit informed, responsible scholars to reach consensus on the nature and effects of nonphysical coercion and control. It further asserts that one should not automatically equate the techniques involved in the process of physical coercion and control with those of nonphysical coercion and control. In addition to critical review of existing knowledge, further appropriately designed research is necessary to enable scholarly consensus about this issue.
    • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
  • Brainwashing is a system of befogging the brain so a person can be seduced into acceptance of what otherwise would be abhorrent to him. He loses touch with reality. Facts and fancy whirl round and change places ... However, in order to prevent people from recognizing the inherent evils in brainwashing, the Reds pretend that it is only another name for something already very familiar and of unquestioned respect, such as education or reform.
    • Edward Hunter, Brainwashing (New York: Pyramid Books, 1956, pages 185-186)
  • Behind this web of semantic...confusion [regarding the definition of thought reform] lies an image of "brainwashing" as an all-powerful, irresistible, unfathomable, and magical method of achieving total control over the human mind. It is of course none of these things, and this loose usage makes the word a rallying point for fear, resentment, urges toward submission, justification for failure, irresponsible accusation, and for a wide gamut of emotional extremism.
    • Lifton (1961)
  • The systematic, scientific[,] and coercive elimination of the individuality of the mind of another.
    • Scheflin and Opton (1978)
  • ...[t]he methodology of Drs. [Margaret] Singer and Benson has been repudiated by the scientific community",and are "little more than uninformed speculation, based on skewed data" and that "[t]he coercive persuasion theory ... is not a meaningful scientific concept."
    • APA (11 February 1987) - before the DIMPAC report had appeared
  • The Board of Directors now believes it was premature, for organizational reasons, to endorse the positions taken in the amicus brief prior to completion of the task force study.
    • APA (March 27, 1987)
  • BSERP thanks the Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control [DIMPAC] for its service but Is unable to accept the report of the Task Force. In general, the report lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA Imprimatur.[...]Finally, after much consideration, BSERP does not believe that we have sufficient information available to guide us in taking a position on this issue. [brainwashing theories espoused by DIMPAC in their report].
    • Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology , APA (May 11, 1987)
  • The persuasive techniques used by totalist cults to bind and exploit the members, while not magical or infallible, are sufficiently powerful and effective to assure the recruitment of a significant percentage of those approached, and the retention of a significant percentage of those enlisted.
    • West (1989)
  • Brainwashing: (a.k.a. thought control, mind control, coercive persuasion). A non-violent method that uses mind control techniques to convince a person to abandon some of their basic beliefs and adopt the beliefs of the indoctrinator.
    • Robinson (1996)
  • I am convinced, based on more than three decades of studying NRMs through participant-observation and through interviews with both members and ex-members, that these movements have unleashed social and psychological forces of truly awesome power. These forces have wreaked havoc in many lives - in both adults and in children. It is these social and psychological influence processes that the social scientist has both the right and the duty to try to understand, regardless of whether such understanding will ultimately prove helpful or harmful to the cause of religious liberty. ... the real sociological issue ought not to be whether brainwashing ever occurs but rather whether it occurs frequently enough to be considered an important social problem.
    • Zablocki (1997)
  • Social scientists need not alter their definition of brainwashing, but should simply acknowledge that at least one contemporary ideological organization utilizes brainwashing in an attempt to retain its members. While this study cannot answer crucial questions about the long term implications for people who have been through this particular brainwashing program (compare Schein, 1961: 284), no doubt exists that Scientology's founder gave considerable thought to brainwashing techniques and imposed them on those of his followers whom he believed were harbouring thoughts or performing actions against him or the organization. The "brainwashing" term, therefore, has validity within some social science discourse.
    • Kent (1997)
  • The American Psychological Association had rejected the brainwashing/mind control theories in 1987 insofar as they applied to religious movements, on the basis that they were not scientific is, therefore, perfectly accurate. It is, in fact, almost identical to [Margaret} Singer’s own statement that the rejection of the DIMPAC report was “described by the APA as a rejection of the scientific validity of the theory of coercive persuasion.
    • Introvigne (1998)
  • Brainwashing is defined as an observable set of transactions between a charismatically-structured collectivity and an isolated agent of the collectivity with the goal of transforming the agent into a deployable agent. Brainwashing is thus a process of ideological resocialization carried out within a structure of charismatic authority.
    • Zablocki (2002)
  • Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. ... It seems to me that at the very heart of the controversy over the existence of mind control is a bias toward believing in the power of people to resist the power of situational forces, a belief in individual will power and faith to overcome all evil adversity. It is Jesus modeling resistance against the temptations of Satan, and not the vulnerability of Adam and Eve to deception. More recently, examples abound that challenge this person-power misattribution.
    • Zimbardo (2002)

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