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date: 11 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Unable to comprehend the appeal of New Religious Movements, many observers concluded that the leaders of such groups has discovered a special form of social control which enabled them to recruit their followers in non-ordinary ways, and, more particularly, to short-circuit their rational, questioning minds by keeping them locked in special trance states. A handful of professionals, mostly psychologists and psychiatrists with sentiments for the anti-cult movement, attempted to provide scientific grounding for this notion of cultic brainwashing/mind control, in part by referring back to studies of Korean War POWs who had been ‘brainwashed’ by their captors. This chapter revisits anti-cultism’s implicit ideological assumptions and the empirical studies indicating that conversions to contemporary new religions result from garden-variety sociological and psychological factors rather than from esoteric ‘mind control’ techniques.

Keywords: New Religious Movements, brainwashing, mind control, communist thought reform, Robert Lifton, cult stereotype

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