Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, Book Review

Brainwashing: The Science of Thought ControlBrainwashing: The Science of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was very interesting but, for me, difficult to read in some places. It's 20 years since I completed my degree in Psychology and I certainly haven't kept up with things and this book does contain some technical neuro-stuff. However, Kathleen Taylor's explanation of the many varieties of influence techniques used in politics, religion and advertising were fascinating and very useful (to me).

Her expression 'cogwebs', as an abbreviation for cognitive web - connections in the brain made through reinforcement of certain beliefs and thought patterns often through external influence, were particularly interesting. The stronger the reinforcement of these beliefs the harder they are to change. Rather like a gully cut into rock by a small stream - even though the force of the water isn't strong the constant flow gradually erodes the rock. It is then very difficult to change the route of the stream. It is the same with beliefs, it is very difficult to change beliefs when current beliefs have been reinforced over and over. Therefore, those who are part of cults or totalitarian regimes of some kind are trapped by their own minds and the influence that the leaders of these groups have over them by the constant reinforcement of certain messages.

Taylor mentions Robert Lifton's Thought Reform Criteria:

** Milieu Control – The control of information and communication.
** Mystical Manipulation – The manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated.
** Demand for Purity – The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection.
** Confession – Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group.
** Sacred Science – The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.
** Loading the Language – The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand.
** Doctrine over person – The member's personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
** Dispensing of existence – The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.

But how does one resist such influence? Stop and think! She also suggests that cynicism and humour assist resisting influence - which is great, because being English we are endlessly cynical and like to use humour as a defence. Awesome. :)

Great book, if you're interested in this kind of thing.

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