Brainwashing, also called Coercive Persuasion, systematic effort to persuade nonbelievers to accept a certain allegiance, command, or doctrine. A colloquial term, it is more generally applied to any technique designed to manipulate human thought or action against the desire, will, or knowledge of the individual.

Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against The Hidden Menace

Steven Hassan
 was a college junior in the mid-1970s when he was recruited into the Unification Church, a cult also known as the “Moonies.” Hassan said he quickly came to believe that Armageddon and World War III were imminent. The Moonies, he thought, were singularly tasked with saving the world.

“It only took a few weeks to get me convinced that the Messiah was on the Earth, even though I’m Jewish,” said Hassan, author of “Combating Cult Mind Control.”

It wasn’t until he met with ex-Moonies, albeit reluctantly, that he began to leave the cult 2½ years later.

Coercive persuasion and thought reform are alternate names for programs of social influence capable of producing substantial behavior and attitude change through the use of coercive tactics, persuasion, and/or interpersonal and group-based influence manipulations.

The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:

  1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual’s sense of self to promote compliance
  2. The use of an organized peer group
  3. Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity
  4. The manipulation of the totality of the person’s social environment to stabilize behavior once modified

Coercive psychological systems are behavioral change programs which use psychological force in a coercive way to cause the learning and adoption of an ideology or designated set of beliefs, ideas, attitudes, or behaviors. The essential strategy used by the operators of these programs is to systematically select, sequence and coordinate many different types of coercive influence, anxiety and stress-producing tactics over continuous periods of time.