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The Psychology of the Cult Experience
Transcript of The Psychology of the Cult Experience
Francesca Zepeda "consciously and manipulatively,
cult leaders and their trainers exert a
systematic social influence that can
produce great behavioral changes"
-Margaret T. Singer
professor of psychology
University of California at Berekeley cult: a group of people joined together by a charasmatic leader, where, "the expectation is that they can transcend the imperfections and finitude of life"
-Stanley H. Cath.
psychoanalyst and associate professor of psych.
Tufts University WHat is so Attractive from the start? A great example of this can be
seen in the People's Temple, a
cult formed by Jim Jones in 1955.
It offered an eglitarian society in
which hierarchies that existed
around race, class, and gender
were nonexistent. Succumbing to Cults
Cult recruiters will station themselves
in areas where they think
"unattached persons" will be- rallies,
airports, libraries. They try to target
vulnerable people and entice them with
some reward; companionship, peace of
mind, a place to stay, or an implied
They are very well attended to in the
first stages (generally), and then confronted
with an emotional crisis to test their reaction. An Example: Jonestown As 900 residents either voluntarily of forcibly drank cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid,
under cult leader Jim Jones' decree that
a collective suicide was necessary to
protest the "Inhumane" world, the presence of the armed guards who were there to ensure that everyone drank the Flavor-Aid, implies an implicit coercion, similar to the authority figure in Milgram's shock experiments. Why would you join a cult?
In speaking of the People's Temple,
a Tokyo News Editor comments,
"Blacks and other disenfranchised
Americans dissapointed by the
contradiction between the myth of
affluence, and their own material
circumstances" found solace in the
People's Temple cult. tHE USE OF rEVERSE pSYCHOLOGY
aLTHOUGH SOME CULTS CLAIM THAT
THE MEMBERS ARE FREE TO LEAVE AT
ANY TIME, THE USE OF FEAR AND
INTIMIDATION MAKE THAT PROCESS
DIFFICULT. THEY CAN INCLUDE "BREAK-
DOWN SESSIONS", WHICH CAN LAST
FOR HOURS, AND "SLAVE-LIKE LABOR"
TO CONVINCE THEM THAT IT'S NOT
WORTH LEAVING. Conformity and Cults
"...cults must maintain a high degree
of conformity to the group's views
in their recruitment efforts"
In talking about joining the Unification
Church, one ex-member, Jerry, Comments,
"I went along in all the activities because
they were sincere people doing things for
a good cause, even though it
sometimes seemed silly" One doctor suggested that after a certain point,
the person who willingly acts out of a set of
attitudes will come to feel "that those attitudes
are his or her own" A "Moonie Engagement": An example of
odd combination of mass engagement,
mass marriage, and "separation period" Church members make elaborate
rationalizations and ignore cruelty
and uncomfort, rather than
challenge leader. Isolation in Cults "If a cult is to maintain a system of shared beliefs markedly at variance with that of the surrounding culture, members must be rigidly isolated from consensual information from the general society that would unsettle this belief system" -The Unification church is a cult that highly discourages the consumption of alcohol
-In a STudy, 100 percent of longstanding members (86 percent of all who convert) had completely stopped the use of alcoholic beverages
-Over time, cult members'attitudes and behaviors came to conform with those expected. INSIDE A CULT LEADER'S Mind "People's temple was the likely
product of a culture where rational
discourse had been engulfed by an
orgiastic search for self-fulfillment
stemming from naive utopian wishes
to transcend confrontation with life
in a morally uneven world"
-Shiva Naipaul Why Do Members stay? "The relationship between the relief of
neurotic distress and affiliation with the
charasmatic group continues over the
course of membership" "my religious beliefs
give me comfort" "I feel a close
connection with God" Motivation for Cont'd
commitment Behavior Modification and Cults
Desired Behavior changes are achieved
by cults in this way, and can lead to
damaging of an individual's emotions.
Resentment can be fostered, similar to
an abused child. Furthering the Control
Many Cults will keep their members
on a strict schedule to control the individual's physical reality. "If you can control behavior, hearts and minds will follow" Guilt as a form of Mind Control
Cult members are conditioned over time
to blame themselves when things are wrong.
This adds to the emotional control that a
cult has over its members. Gaining the Psychological Advantage
Cults are most successful when they can convince prospective members that they can rescue them from the world, through means of deception PTSD AS AN EFFECT OF CULTS
SOME EX-MEMBERS OF CULTS CAN
EXPERIENCE ATROCITIES SO DEEP THAT
THEY CAN'T GET THE MEMORIES OUT
OF THEIR HEADS, CAUSING pOST-TRAUMATIC
STRESS DISORDER. personality Changes & Disorders
"The Symptoms of temporal lobe
epilepsy are similar to those seen
or reported as resulting from cult
conversions; increased irritability,
loss of libido or altered sexual interest;
ritualism, compulsive attetion to detail, mystical states Sales Cults How IT WORKS:
sales don't fit
berading Individuals are led to believe that their lack of commitment or spiritual strength is the reason for failure. "Jones made them believe that they could
create it themselves-that they could make
their own paradise"
Member of the Peoples' Temple (SF, CA) "He knows more about me than I know about
myself and always accepts me totally. Total
acceptance and communication make our love
deeper than I thought possible between two humans"
speaking of her "lover" and Peoples' Temple
leader, Jim Jones A Different Side of Cults:
"The morality of the cult leader and the nature of the leader's charasmatic dream doesn't necessarily have to be destructive, and many who join and remain in cults do so out of a sincere quest for religious connection"
-Stanley H. Cath
Tufts University School of Medicine Things are Looking Up Many former cult members have
been successfully treated.
"Usually we can put the pieces back
together again with the help of family
-Dr. William Clark
San Diego State University Prevention and Solution of Cults
"The Best Defense from cults is to be
realistic about any dire situations you are in and be wary of people who are involved
with a group and become an 'instant'
-Paul Bright "To me, death is not a fearful thing. It's living that's cursed"
-Jim Jones A Basic Model of a Cult control of
behavior control of
thoughts control of
emotions Thank You!