Mind control

technology for controlling the mind
(Redirected from Brainwash)

Mind control (also known as brainwashing, coercive persuasion or thought control) refers to the way some people have tried to control the beliefs and behaviours of others.

A satirical depiction of brainwashing

It is a process where a group or individual uses methods to persuade other to change their basic beliefs and values.[1] A group or individual may use unethical methods to persuade others to believe and do what the manipulator(s) want. It often harms the person being manipulated.[2]

The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which undermines (damages) an individual's control over their own thinking, behaviour, emotions or decision making.

Theories of brainwashing and of mind control were originally developed to explain how totalitarian regimes appeared to succeed systematically in indoctrinating prisoners of war through propaganda and torture techniques.



Some authors have pointed out that the ideas of mind control can be found in all stages of human history.[3]

Korean War


The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest known use of brainwashing in an article Edward Hunter in Miami News published on 7 October 1950. During the Korean War, Hunter, who worked at the time both as a journalist before becoming a U.S. intelligence agent, wrote a series of books and articles on the theme of Chinese brainwashing.[4]

The Chinese term 洗腦 (xǐ năo, literally "wash brain")[5] was originally used to describe methodologies of coercive persuasion used under the Maoist regime in China. The methods aimed to change people's mindset so they became "right-thinking" members of the new Chinese social system.[6]

Hunter and those who picked up the Chinese term used it to explain why, unlike in earlier wars, a relatively high percentage of American GIs defected to the enemy side after becoming prisoners-of-war. British radio operator Robert W. Ford[7][8] and British Army Colonel James Carne also claimed that the Chinese subjected them to brainwashing techniques during their war-era imprisonment. The most prominent case in the U.S. was that of Frank Schwable, a prisoner in the war. While in custody, he confessed to having taken part in germ warfare.[9]

Cults and the shift of focus


After the Korean War, mind control theories shifted in focus from politics to religion. From the 1960s an increasing number of youths started to come into contact with new religious movements (NRM).[10] Some who converted suddenly adopted beliefs and behaviors that differed greatly from those of their families and friends; in some cases they neglected or broke contact with their loved ones. Those against cults explained these sudden and seemingly dramatic religious conversions as due to mind control.[11][12][13] The media was quick to follow suit,[14] and social scientists sympathetic to the anti-cult movement, who were usually psychologists, developed more sophisticated models of brainwashing.[12] While some psychologists were receptive to these theories, sociologists were for the most part skeptical of their ability to explain conversion to NRMs.[15]


  1. Kowal D.M. 2000. Brainwashing. In A.E. Kazdin (ed) Encyclopedia of psychology, vol. 1 (pp. 463-464). American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10516-173
  2. Langone, Michael. "Cults: Questions and Answers". www.csj.org. International Cultic Studies Association. Archived from the original on 2016-08-03. Retrieved 2009-12-27. Mind control (also referred to as 'brainwashing,' 'coercive persuasion,' 'thought reform,' and the 'systematic manipulation of psychological and social influence') refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated.
  3. Sargant, William 1957. Battle for the mind: a physiology of brain-washing. London: Heinemann. Especially: Chapter 8 Brainwashing in ancient times, by Robert Graves.
  4. Marks, John (1979). "8. Brainwashing". The search for the Manchurian Candidate: the CIA and mind control. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-0773-6. Retrieved 2008-12-30. In September 1950, the Miami News published an article by Edward Hunter titled '"Brain-Washing" tactics force Chinese into ranks of Communist Party.' It was the first printed use in any language of the term "brainwashing," which quickly became a stock phrase in Cold War headlines. Hunter, a CIA propaganda operator who worked under cover as a journalist, turned out a steady stream of books and articles on the subject.
  5. Chinese English Dictionary
  6. Taylor, Kathleen (2006). Brainwashing: the science of thought control. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-19-920478-6.
  7. Ford RC (1990). Captured in Tibet. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-581570-X.
  8. Ford RC (1997). Wind between the worlds: captured in Tibet. SLG Books. ISBN 0-9617066-9-4.
  9. New York Times: "Red germ charges cite 2 U.S. Marines," February 23, 1954, accessed February 16, 2012
  10. Barrett D.V. 2001. The new believers: a survey of sects, cults and alternative religions . London: Cassell. [1]
  11. Melton, J. Gordon (1999). "Brainwashing and the cults: the rise and fall of a theory". CESNUR: Center for Studies on New Religions. Retrieved 2009-06-15. In the United States at the end of the 1970s, brainwashing emerged as a popular theoretical construct around which to understand what appeared to be a sudden rise of new and unfamiliar religious movements during the previous decade, especially those associated with the hippie street-people phenomenon.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Bromley, David G. (1998). "Brainwashing". In William H. Swatos Jr. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0-7619-8956-1.
  13. Barker, Eileen: New religious movements: a practical introduction. London: Her Majesty's Stationery office, 1989.
  14. Wright, Stewart A. (1997). "Media coverage of unconventional religion: Any 'Good News' for minority faiths?". Review of Religious Research. 39 (2): 101–115. doi:10.2307/3512176. JSTOR 3512176.
  15. Barker, Eileen (1986). "Religious movements: cult and anti-cult since Jonestown". Annual Review of Sociology. 12: 329–346. doi:10.1146/annurev.so.12.080186.001553.