Brainwashing is defined in the Psychology Dictionary as that which “manipulates and modifies a person’s emotions, attitudes, and beliefs.” It reduces a person’s ability to mentally defend themselves and makes it easier for another person to control them.
Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and forced re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques.– Wikipedia
The term brainwashing was first coined in the 1950s when journalist Edward Hunter in his article in Miami Daily News entitled – “Brain-washing Tactics Force Chinese Into Ranks of Communist Party.” He described how Mao’s Red Army used ancient techniques to manipulate the masses. He called this hypnotic process – brainwashing, the process to change the mind drastically (Smithsonian Magazine).
It is a theory that a person’s core beliefs, ideas, affiliations and values can be replaced, so much so that they have no autonomy over themselves and cannot think critically or independently.
In 1956, Albert Biderman studied how prisoner of war camp personnel got U.S. prisoners of the Korean War to give them tactical information, collaborate with propaganda, and agree with false confessions. Biderman stated that inflicting physical pain was not necessary to “induce compliance,” but psychological manipulations were extremely effective for that purpose. His report included what has come to be known as “Biderman’s Chart of Coercion.”
In Biderman’s chart, he summarized the tactics in brainwashing;
- Monopolization of perception (fixes attention on immediate predicament; eliminates “undesirable” stimuli)
- Induced debilitation; exhaustion
- Occasional indulgences (provides motivation for compliance; hinders adjustment to deprivation)
- Demonstrating superiority
- Enforcing trivial demands
Not all eight elements need to be present in order for brainwashing to occur. Each element can have some power to distort reality, interfere with perception, reduce a person’s self-confidence, and gain compliance.
How are you brainwashed?
Based on the mechanisms from Biderman’s chart, you can somehow notice that this person is trying to control you. But first, this person who will try to brainwash you will want to know everything about you in order to manipulate your beliefs. Everything – find out what your strengths are, your weaknesses, who you trust, who is important to you and who you listen to for advice.
They will begin with isolation, it may come in a form of not allowing an access for family or friends. The brainwasher must have a complete control of the target.
In the process, brainwasher will attack the victim’s self esteem, making them vulnerable and easier to control. This can be done through physical or verbal abuse, threats, etc.
you are not who you think you are.– how stuff works
The abuser denies everything that makes the target who he is: “You are not a soldier.” “You are not a man.” “You are not defending freedom.” The target is under constant attack for days, weeks or months, to the point that he becomes exhausted, confused and disoriented. In this state, his beliefs seem less solid (exhaustion).
Most psychologists believe that brainwashing is possible in the right conditions and settings. Plan must be systematic and relentless making it tiresome for the victim.
While the identity crisis is setting in, the brainwasher is simultaneously creating an overwhelming sense of guilt in the target. He/she repeatedly and mercilessly attacks the subject for any “sin” the target has committed, large or small. The victim now feels a general sense of shame that everything he/she does is wrong.
The ultimate goal of brainwashing is Blind Obedience. The victim follows orders without question. This is usually achieved by positively rewarding the person when they please the brainwasher and negatively punishing them when they do not (indulgences and punishment).
Brainwashing is real.
Yes, it is not just in fictional books and movies. Brainwashing is real!
However, this mind/psychological control should not be feared, and target/prospect having knowledge makes any tactic less effective. Here are some ways that you can do to avoid being brainwashed;
- Don’t believe everything that you read
- Don’t buy into fear or scare tactics
- Watch for someone’s hidden agenda
- Look out for less obvious messages, try to listen for both sides of the story
- Follow your own path
- Do your own research
- Listen to your own intuition
- Don’t follow the crowd
- Don’t be afraid to be different