The idea of brainwashing holds that the human mind may be changed or manipulated through specific psychological methods. According to some theories, brainwashing impairs a person’s capacity for independent or critical thinking, permits the entry of unwelcome ideas and concepts into their brains, and alters a person’s attitudes, values, and beliefs. The systematic attempt to convince non-believers to adopt a certain allegiance, command, or philosophy is known as brainwashing and is also known as Coercive Persuasion.
In 1950, Edward Hunter used the phrase “brainwashing” to describe how the Chinese government seemed to compel individuals to comply with them.
Robert Jay Lifton, a psychologist, conducted research on former inmates of Chinese and Korean War detention camps in the late 1950s. He concluded that they had gone through a multi-stage process, starting with strikes on the prisoner’s sense of self and finishing with what seemed to be a shift in beliefs. In the end, Lifton identified a series of procedures used in the brainwashing instances he investigated:
1. Assault on identity
4. The breaking point
6. Being forced to confess
8. Releasing of guilt
9. Development and harmony
10. Last confession and rebirth
All “regular” social reference points are absent at each of these phases since they all take place in an isolated setting, and mental fogging tactics like sleep deprivation and hunger are often used during this time. The victim often experiences or is constantly threatened with physical violence, making it more difficult to think critically and independently.
The phrase “brainwashing” was also often used concerning religious cults. They allegedly invited them to an end-of-term camp after college to isolate them from their family and friends, set up a sleep deprivation schedule (3 am prayer sessions), and subjected them to loud, repeated chanting to attract new members. Instead of using torture, religious brainwashing frequently uses love bombing. Now, the majority of anti-cult activists agree that the brainwashing hypothesis is invalid. Instead, some anti-cult campaigners began referring to it as mind control.
Most psychologists and social scientists in society do not now use the term “brainwashing,” and the techniques of persuasion and coercion used during the Korean War are not considered arcane.
The term “brainwashed” is still used colloquially to describe someone who has strong beliefs that are illogical and wholly defy logic, common sense, experience, and proof. It is applied primarily when these concepts were shaped by outside forces like books, television shows, other individuals, or a religious institution.
Deprogramming, or undoing the effects of brainwashing, has had some effectiveness, especially with religious cult members. This involves rigorous psychotherapy and confrontation.