Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subjects' ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into their minds, as well as to change their attitudes, values and beliefs.
(Arranged alphabetically by author)
A - F
- Some Vietnam veterans have told me what they did over there when they were animals. They have been giving testimony about it to the public, to juries, to judges. Some of the juries cry, and so do some of the judges... It's a rotten thing to brainwash someone into doing the dirty part of killing while we stay at home. It's a rotten thing to pretend the war is coming to an end when it's only taken to the air. And in 1972 if you don't fight against a rotten thing you become a part of it.
- ... “brainwashing” [is] a word-for-word translation from xi-nao, the Mandarin words for wash (xi) and brain (nao)... The process was meant to “change a mind radically so that its owner becomes a living puppet—a human robot—without the atrocity being visible from the outside.”
- The idea of mind control flourished in pop culture, with movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Manchurian Candidate showing people whose minds were wiped and controlled by outside forces...By 1980 even the American Psychiatric Association had given it credence, including brainwashing under “dissociative disorders” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III.
- Had Chinese and Soviet Communists really uncovered a machine or method to rewrite men’s minds and supplant their free will? The short answer is no—but that didn’t stop the U.S. from pouring resources into combatting it.
- Control of thought is more important for governments that are free and popular than for despotic and military states. The logic is straightforward: a despotic state can control its domestic enemies by force, but as the state loses this weapon, other devices are required to prevent the ignorant masses from interfering with public affairs, which are none of their business.
- There is perhaps a fifth category, which may belong under "insane" but which can be more sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented, bullied, or brainwashed. Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn, almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and their understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other.
- Richard Dawkins "Ignorance Is No Crime", Free Inquiry 21 (3), Summer 2001, ISSN 0272-0701
- Regarding his 1989 statement "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."
G - L
- I had different views in the '70s. As a human being, I've learned… I have more culture now. I was dumb as a rock when I wrote 'Okie from Muskogee'... My views on marijuana have totally changed. I think we were brainwashed and I think anybody that doesn't know that needs to get up and read and look around, get their own information. It's a cooperative government project to make us think marijuana should be outlawed.
- ... the term was based on the Chinese phrase ‘hsi nao’, meaning ‘to cleanse the mind’, and that this was not an official Communist phrase (it does not appear in Chinese dictionaries or newspapers) but was nevertheless said, on record, by Hunter’s Chinese informants. As Hunter would explain, ‘hsi nao’ was a clever pun on a longstanding Confucian principle, ‘hsi hsin’, to wash the heart, a metaphor that meant to prepare oneself for a quiet retirement from world affairs.
- Marcia Holmes "Edward Hunter and the origins of ‘brainwashing’" Hidden Persuaders (May 26, 2017)]
- 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 (1956) Brainwashing. New York: Pyramid Books. p. 185-186
- 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.
- 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.
- If someone took control of your mind and you were not able to think as yourself any longer, you would no longer be yourself. You'd be something in his command. You as an individual would be dead. That's Anti-Life.
- Behind this web of semantic.(and more than 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.
- Robert Jay Lifton (1961) Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China. New York City: Norton, p. 4 ([Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism online])
M - R
- Here, then, is the brief history of brainwashing. The concept began as an [O]rientalist propaganda fiction created by the CIA to mobilize domestic support for a massive military build-up.
- Definition of brainwashing
1: a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas
2: persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship
- If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death? And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'. The past, he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?
- The only chance for victory over the brainwash is the right of every man to have his ideas judged one at a time. You never get clarity as long as you have these packaged words, as long as a word is used by twenty-five people in twenty-five different ways. That seems to me to be the first fight, if there is going to be any intellect left.
- 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.
- B.A. Robinson (1996) "Glossary of religious and spiritual terms" on religioustolerance.org (online)
- 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.
- Thomas Robbins, Benjamin David Zablocki (2001) Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field. p. 183
- 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; partly cited in Helen Reece (1998) Law and Science, Volume 1. p. 287
S - Z
- 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.
- Edgar Schein (1963). "Brainwashing". in: Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (14th (revised) ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. p. 91.
- 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.
- Human beings have been trying to change each others' minds since they first discovered they had them. Brainwashing is more ambitious, and more coercive, than simple persuasion, and unlike older cognates such as indoctrination, it has become closely associated with modern, mechanistic technology. It is a systematic processing of non-compliant human beings which, if successful, refashions their very identities.
- Kathleen Taylor Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control Oxford University Press 2004
- Brainwashing threatens cherished notions of free will. It seems to suggest that we may not be safe anywhere, not even inside our own skulls. Since Korea it has been invoked whenever people do something especially incomprehensible.
- Say the word "brainwashing", and chances are we think of the Manchurian Candidate, of some mysterious process that installs malevolent new beliefs in people's minds - as if ideologies were just like versions of Windows...But brains are not computers, and there is no Button X that Osama and his ilk can press to turn a man from good to evil. Giving a name to the pathway from "normal" to "killer" may make us feel better, but it doesn't help us prevent any future bombings.
- One striking fact about brainwashing is its consistency. Whether the context is a prisoner-of-war camp, a cult's headquarters or a radical mosque, five core techniques keep cropping up: isolation, control, uncertainty, repetition and emotional manipulation.
- 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.
- Louis Jolyon West "Persuasive Techniques in Religious Cults," in: Marc Galanter (1989) Cults and New Religious Movements. p. 4
- 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.
- Benjamin Zablocki (2002); As cited in: Herbert W Simons, PH.D., Jean Jones (2011) Persuasion and Contemporary Culture. p. 343
- A western citizen is being brainwashed much more than a soviet citizen ever was during the era of communist propaganda. In ideology, the main thing is not the ideas, but rather the mechanisms of their distribution. The might of the Western media, for example, is incomparably greater than that of the propaganda mechanisms of the Vatican when it was at the zenith of its power. And it is not only the cinema, literature, philosophy – all the levers of influence and mechanisms used in the promulgation of culture, in its broadest sense, work in this direction. At the slightest impulse all who work in this area respond with such consistency that it is hard not to think that all orders come from a single source of power.
- Aleksandr Zinovyev, as quoted in Alexander Zinoviev on Stalin and the dissolution of the USSR, October 27, 2016
- The Big lie
- Large-group awareness training
- Social control