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November 21, 2003


Brainwashing or Persuasion?

The Washington Post analyzes the concept of brainwashing, particularly as used as a defense in criminal court. One of the sniper suspects says he was brainwashed to kill. This defense has never stood in court, even for Patty Hearst in the 1970's, one of the first popular "brainwashing" victims. The CIA admits that its attempts to brainwash people were failures (theirs are the only records we have of scientific research on the effects of mind control)--they concluded that brainwashing doesn't exist. Nice to know that our government sorted out that little psychological riddle for us.

A lot of psychologists believe that subverting one's identity and behaving according to a captor's commands are logical survival techniques, resulting from fear and confusion. You can control, manipulate, and intimidate a person, but their compliance with your wishes doesn't mean that their identity and self-awareness has been erased. The former president of the American Psychological Association says, "Brains don't get washed, but extreme forms of social influence happen all the time. Coercive persuasion? Sure it exists. But juries find it hard to believe. Nobody wants to believe human nature is so pliable."

So, ADM, come on. Brainwashing, nothing. We all know that you went along with videotaping your sick robot sex romps because part of you, deep down, wanted to do it.

categories: Science
posted by amy at 11:18 AM | #


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