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Brainwashing - Fact or Fiction?

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Tania Young

on 11 February 2013

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Transcript of Brainwashing - Fact or Fiction?

Any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their own thinking, behaviour, emotions, or decision making Brainwashing and Thought Reform Where do we begin? Mao Tse-tung wrote about implementing a thought-reform program as early as 1920.... it was put into place when the Communist regime took power in China on October 1, 1949 Chairman Mao planned to achieve an "ideological remolding" through the use of a coordinated program of psychological, social, and political coercion The term was first introduced and popularized during the Cold War in 1951 by Journalist and CIA Publicist Edward Hunter... "The intent is to change a mind radically so that its owner becomes a living puppet - a human robot - without the atrocity being visible...with new beliefs and new thought processes inserted into a captive body" "This insidious psycho-technology utilizes hypnotism, drugs and cunning pressures that plague the body and do not necessarily require marked violence" Dr. Robert J. Lifton
Psychiatrist Studied former prisoners of Korean and Chinese POW camps In the 1950's several American POW's pledged allegiance to communism at the end of their captivity - how did their captors achieve this? The big question is: is brainwashing really possible? Alternative names for Brainwashing: Thought Reform
Thought Control
Mind Control
Coercive Persuasion Thought reform falls into the category of social influence: a collection of ways people can change other's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours Compliance
Education/Propaganda Brainwashing combines all of these approaches to cause change in a person's attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.....without the consent of the victim
and often against
their will! Compliance:
the 'just do it' approach
achieves a change in behaviour, but not attitude Persuasion:
the 'do it because it'll make you feel good/happy/healthy/successful approach Education:
the 'do it because you know it's the right thing to do' approach BrainwAshiNg must have complete control over the target: sleep patterns, eating, using the bathroom and fulfillment of other basic human needs must depend entirely on the will of the agent Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer Dr. Singer strongly believed that cults and other groups are using coercive persuasion to exercise undue control over it's members - she believes that they can gain limitless control over the target using thought reform. Singer developed a Continuum of Influence and Persuasion Education Advertising Propaganda Indoctrination Thought Reform Violence is counterproductive to achieving thought reform! You are mistaken if you think that thought reform can only be carried out in small dark cells under threat of physical torture or death! You gather more flies with honey than vinegar! How Thought Reform Works Thought reform program is a gradual process of breaking down and transformation...it doesn't just happen overnight Thought reform is like gaining weight - 1/2 pound here, 1/2 pound there, and voila, you are confronted with a new physique! Regardless of the method that you choose, the tactics of a thought reform program are designed to:
destabilize your sense of self
get you to dramatically reinterpret your history by creating guilt and shame about your beliefs
develop in you a dependence on the organization to help you rebuild yourself based on the new belief system There are many ways and methods to bring about a change in attitude and beliefs... Dr. Robert J. Lifton Lifton determined that the POW's he studied had undergone a multi-step process that began with attacks on the prisoner's sense of self and ended with what appeared to be a change in beliefs - he defined a set of steps involved in the cases that he studied 1. Assault on identity
2. Guilt
3. Self-betrayal
4. Breaking point
5. Leniency
6. Compulsion to confess
7. Channeling of guilt
8. Releasing of guilt
9. Progress and harmony
10. Final confession and rebirth Each stage takes place in an environment of isolation, meaning that all 'normal' social reference points are unavailable and techniques such as sleep deprivation and malnutrition are typically part of the process, adding to the targets inability to think critically and independently The process Lifton identifies can be divided into 3 stages: 1. Breaking down the self
2. Introducing the
possibility of salvation
3. Rebuilding the self Breaking Down the Self Assault on identity: you are not who you think you are undermining everything you know about yourself After days, weeks or months of constant attacks, your beliefs seem less solid Guilt and self-betrayal you are bad
you begin to feel shameful
agree with me that you are bad
denounce your family and friends Breaking Point: Identity Crisis....
may involve uncontrollable
sobbing and deep depression
you may feel you have lost your grip on reality
you feel completely lost and along
your sense of self is pretty much up for grabs The Possibility of Salvation Phase two: 'I can help you' an offer of some small kindness or at least a reprieve from the abuse
you experience a disproportionate sense of relief and gratitude
think 'good cop, bad cop' routine Compulsion to confession: you can help yourself!
you may feel a desire to reciprocate the kindness offered to you
confession is suggested as a means of relieving guilt and pain Channeling of guilt: this is why you're in pain
you have come to believe that your belief system is the cause of your guilt and shame
old belief system associated with psychological pain
new belief system associated with the possibility of escaping the pain Releasing of guilt:
It's not me! It's my beliefs! Phew! There is an external cause of your wrongness!

Relief is extreme, hope is exhilarating Hope Phase one: Phase Three: the Self Progress and harmony: if you want you can choose good
you are made to feel that you must choose between old and new - giving you the sense that your fate is in your own hands
making a conscious choice Final Confession and Rebirth: you cling to your new identity like a life preserver
described as a rebirth
often have rituals or ceremonies to welcome you to your new community Is 'brainwashing' real according to a court of law? By the late 1980's and early 1990's, American courts began to consistently exclude expert testimony on brainwashing in cults because: 1. evidence presented by Singer and Lifton failed to meet the minimum standards of scientific credibility required by courts

2. the courts concluded that 'the acts in question do not differ significantly from those by established churches that are never seriously accused of coercive persuasion - so admission of such testimony would put the constitutional guarantees of all religions in jeopardy The Lee Boyd Malvo Case According to "The Brainwashing Defense" in Psychology Today: "Muhammad plucked 15-year-old Malvo
from the Caribbean island of Antigua, where his mother had abandoned him, and brought him to the U.S. in 2001. An army veteran, Muhammad filled the teen's head with visions of an impending race war and trained Malvo in marksmanship. He isolated Malvo, steeped him to his own idiosyncratic, vitriolic brand of Islam and imposed a strict diet and exercise regimen on his 'adopted' son. Patricia Hearst: heiress to the Hearst publishing fortune Defended by F.Lee Bailey at a trial for bank robbery in 1976 Hearst reports that she was locked in a dark closet of several days, kept hungry, tired, brutalized and afraid for her life while SLA members bombarded her with there anti-capitalist political ideology.
The defense claimed that she was brainwashed by the SLA and would not have committed the crime otherwise Robert J. Lifton, Edgar Schein and Margaret Thaler Singer have all developed a set of criteria for Thought Reform - Lifton and Schein focus on the sequence of the process and Singer has set out six conditions that are necessary for brainwashing to be successful. Schein's stages of Thought Reform are pretty straightforward: 1. Unfreezing
2. Changing
3. Refreezing Lifton's Eight Themes: 1. Milieu Control
2. Loading the Language
3. Demand for Purity
4. Confession
5. Mystical Manipulation
6. Doctrine over Person
7. Sacred Science
8. Dispensing of Existence Margaret Thaler Singer sees brainwashing as a subtle and powerful psychological process of destabilization and induced dependency - used by crooks, swindlers, psychopaths, and egomaniacs of every sort Singer's Six Conditions: Singer's Six Conditions: Singer's Six Conditions: Singer's Six Conditions: Singer's Six Conditions: Singer's Six Conditions: 1. Keep the target unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person 2. Control time and physical environment (contacts and information) 3. Create a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency 4. Suppress old behaviour
and attitudes 5. Instill new behaviour and attitudes 6. Put forth a closed system of logic What do you think so far? Sound Feasible? Would you be willing to participate in an attempt to brainwash you? Is Brainwashing Credible? Dr. Lorne L. Dawson Several prominent sociologists, including Lorne L. Dawson, have all gone on the record to say that no, you can't actually brainwash somebody Why
Not? 1. There are neither logical nor empirical reasons for the repeated anti-cult assertion that only someone who has been brainwashed could believe some of the incredible doctrines of most new religious movements (even Scientology :)) 2. Tendency of other authors or 'experts' (i.e. Singer) to make dramatic claims based largely on anecdotal evidence, which cannot be disproved by empirical test 3. Cults are 'voluntary associations' and so their opponents have to go to extremes to establish a psychological justification for kidnapping people, holding them against their will, and subjecting them to a hostile and intimidating interrogation for days or even weeks 4. Statistically speaking, only a very small number of people who attend a lecture or workshop actually join the group in the end 5. To what extent can we trust peoples descriptions of their own actions, especially their past actions - there is a lot of potential for inaccuracy and deception (including self-deception)? 6. Most people who leave a New Religious Movement voluntarily (and most who leave, do so voluntarily) continue to express very positive feelings about their involvement 7. People who have left a cult are under great pressure to account for their aberrant behaviour, so direct the blame away from themselves, their families, and their community, they tell wild stories about being brainwashed. A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess The Manchurian Candidate Frank Sinatra
Laurence Harvey
Janet Leigh 1984 George Orwell Conspiracy
Theory Richard Donner
Mel Gibson
Julia Roberts Fictional
Brainwashing Please note:
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