Published in 2004, Kathleen Taylor‘s book Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control looks at the history of brainwashing as we know it through the lens of neuroscience and psychology, defines the spectum of ‘brainwashing’ from persuasion to aggressive thought reform, and shows how strategies of brainwashing can be observed in religion, advertising, education and government.
People’s beliefs and behaviors naturally evolve as they live, mature, experience and acquire new information which nudge them into new ways of thinking, seeing, and explaining the world. On the lighter side of the spectrum, brainwashing refers to non-invasive attempts to persuade by propaganda or salesmanship. On the darker, more sinister side, however, brainwashing is broadly defined as a controversial theory whereby humans can be violently and forcibly subjected to involuntary reeducation of their basic beliefs and values through the deliberate strategy of a third party.
Brainwashing is accused to be the cause when:
- There appears to be a sudden, inexplicable, and extreme difference in beliefs and behaviors in a person
- Over a short period of time, and
- No other reason or justification for the change in belief and behavior can be found.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how advertising and branding are used non-invasively to persuade you as a consumer, watch the documentaries:
- Superbrand secrets of the technology industry
- Superbrand secrets of the fashion industry
- Generation Like: How your quest for identity & connection is subtly manipulated
- How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Marketers.]
Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lipton identified eight tactics would-be brainwashers exploit in an effort to take control of and guide their victim’s beliefs and behavior:
- Milieu control involves controlling a victim’s physical environment, especially communications outside of the brainwasher’s control (such as trusted family members or objective sources), thus controlling the victim’s perception of reality. ‘Outsiders’ and refered to those who refuse to recognize the brainwasher’s and the brainwasher’s belief’s supremacy, and are portrayed as inferior, sub-human, or even infidels who must be punished and terminated.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Glenn D. Wilson‘s lecture Introduction & Methodology of Profiling Serial Killers at Gresham College that one common motive of serial killers is that they tend to be mission-oriented – performing the killings in order to “rid the world of a certain type of person.”
Also, recall in his lecture Intersexual Competition & Male/Female Hierarchies at Stanford University, Robert Sapolsky discusses the controversial notion of group selection which has creeped back into biology is when one small group of species becomes somehow isolated from one another, and continue on mating and reproducing independently. Eventually, the smaller isolated group becomes more inbred simply because there is a smaller, less diverse gene pool, thus making family ties among the group more intricate.]
- Mystical manipulation involves performing a sort of magic trick whereby the brainwasher ‘demonstrates’ a certain paranormal ability (such as fortune-telling) that, although giving the impression of being uncontrolled and powerful, is in fact a system of smoke and mirrors and pulleys and levers carefully orchestrated by the brainwasher to legitimize his or her authority in the victim’s eyes.
- Demanding purity involves compelling victims to remove anything in their life that prevents them from fully dedicating their thoughts, minds, and objectives to the belief
- Confession involves compelling victims to reveal their deepest, most private thoughts, fears, and desires to the group, thus fusing the group psychologically and providing the brainwasher with valuable information to help further dominate the victim psychologically, or blackmail the victim should the victim later wish to betray the brainwasher, the group, or the belief
- Sacred Science involves presenting the beliefs as “morally unchallengable and scientifically exact, thus further legitimizing the authenticity of the belief
- Loading the language involves using rhetorical devices such as ‘thought-terminating clichés,’ abstract, ambiguous and value-laden ideas, emotionally-charged language, and presuppositions to control and prevent discussion around the limitations and defaults of the belief. Examples of loaded language include:
- “Well, that’s just the way God works.”
- “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
- “You aren’t really actually considering voting for Donald Trump, are you?”
- Doctrine over reason involves portraying the beliefs and attached emotions so beyond the realm of human understanding that they cannot be explained through man’s systems of logic and reasoning, and nor should it; that it should simply be accepted as fact and unquestionned.
- Dispensing existence involves ursurping utter control and dominance over the victim, controlling every aspect and decision in the victim’s life