This research is based on the topic of brainwashing. It describes what brainstorming is and consequently the different aspects of brainwashing .different theories that have been put forward regarding to brainwashing have been explored with the main reason of identifying the gaps f knowledge that might be existing within this field of study. A deep examination of some of the theories will guide future researchers on which aspects of brainwashing have not been covered exhaustively.

The strengths of some of the existing theories will be highlighted so that future scholars may be motivated by such theories to do a research to test the hypothesis of the study which is usually based on the theories guiding the research. Weakness of theories will be exposed so that it can be improved and offer a good way forward in carrying out a study in this area of study. Comparisons of different theories and their critiques will be done in this research .brainwashing in the context of persuasion is examined to give insights on their differences and similarities. The research will also look at the different literatures that represent studies that have been carried out in this are of study by other writers. This will give the researcher a chance to appreciate work that has been done by others. The analysis of information from the previous studies will guide the researcher on areas that have not been fully exhausted so that such areas can be given due considerations.


Brain washing is the process through which some people use manipulative tactics to persuade others to think and behave like them.  Brainwashing can generally be viewed as taking charge of another person's way of thinking, behaving and making decisions. Brainwashing and its associated theories were developed by dictators who considered their power and control over their subjects to have no limits. They used to spread falsehood to people captured during war about how their governments had abandoned them. Likewise, brainwashing includes torturing which is generally used by the armed forces to make people comply in giving information being sought. Torturing is usually used where democratic ways of initiating dialogue are not forthcoming. Politics and brainwashing cannot be separated. Many political systems in the world today, use brainwashing. During the time of colonization, many countries that were colonized by France experienced a lot of brainwashing. Through the process of assimilation, the people who were colonized were cheated into abandoning their ways of life to adopt those of their colonizers.

To succeed in this, France offered special treatment to those who agreed to get assimilated, including gaining full citizenship to France. Those people who were assimilated were expected to think and behave lie French men. The assimilation of these people meant several thinks. First, they lost their identity as they conformed to the culture and customs of the French people. Such countries as France that used this kind of brainwashing still influences a lot of processes in their former colonies. Neocolonialism is a kind of brainwashing effect that was left in the former colonies of European powers. These colonies act as children who seek guidance from their former colonizers. Education system, forms of governments and industrial structures of the countries that were colonized depicts the social and political systems of their former colonizers. Away from the political arena where brainwashing is practiced, social settings have different processes through which brainwashing occurs.

A good example includes the recruitment of people in to different cults. The success of this process depends on the ability of cult leaders to retain members. To retain members and ensure that they are ever loyal to the cult, some brainwashing occurs. Deception is one of the elements that are used to retain the members of the cult intact. The leaders of these cults give deceiving information to their followers systematically. Gradually members synthesize this information and change their behavior accordingly. The behavior change usually conforms to the expectations of the cult. Moreover, information is usually held by the older members of the cult to the new ones. This non disclosure system crates an air of curiosity among members of the cult. To satisfy this curiosity, they must remain loyal up to that time when they will have gained trust of the older members.

 In the family setting, several practices have been observed translates to brainwashing. One of the parents may persuade the children to falsely accuse the other parent of abuse. In another scenario, one parent may brainwash a child to have sex with him on the grounds that failure to comply would lead to undesirable results on the side of the child. Religion groups have used the concept of brainwashing for many centuries. Those who ascribe to certain faith are compelled to do things in a certain way failure to which they are bound to be disowned by the religion group or face eternal wrath of a supernatural being. Exploitation is usually one of the results of this kind of brainwashing. Followers in some religious groups are expected to supply the group with resources to enable it remain in existence. The followers cannot draw the limits within which they should materially support the group. As such, many of such followers have been brainwashed to the extent that they carry the burden of sustaining the religion group they belong to without even realizing.

Review of literature

This is a general overview of how brainwashing has spread its tentacles in almost all sections of the society. Since brainwashing is a wide field that affects the society in almost all levels, many theories have been developed to explain this phenomenon. Moreover, scholars have come out with the aim of testing the theories that already exist concerning brainwashing. In their process of studying they have come up with results of their critique on the theories and even their own opinion on the same topic. A good analysis of these findings, opinions and recommendations are very helpful in understanding the topic under the study. The following is a review of these works that have been done. Their examination by any scholar will help in making conclusions based on reason and sound decisions.

According to Taylor, brainwashing consists of four components: The first one is the purpose. Taylor (2004) argues that the reason behind brainwashing need not be intended to harm the victim. Some of the brainwashers actually and sincerely think that the person they are re-educating needs to be re-educated and will actually benefit from the process. However, Taylor asserts that there are people who brainwash with the main intent of causing harm to the person they are brainwashing. The second component of brainwashing is the cognitive difference between the new belief and the old one. Taylor uses an example of a football fun who claims to have been brainwashed in believing that his team captain was the best footballer in the world.

According to Taylor, such a person may not receive much sympathy as compared to someone who has been compelled by his brainwasher to rob a bank and then get caught in the action. The latter may receive sympathy even from the court of law if it can be ascertained that he was actually brainwashed to carry out the robbery. This means that brainwashing may or may not hold, depending with the reasonable difference between the initial behavior and the behavior that occurs as a result of brainwashing. The length of time taken for one to transit from the old belief to the new beliefs gives weight on whether brainwashing took place or not. A person who takes a long time to change beliefs may be seen to have changed through natural means.

However, a person who vanishes a strong believer of something and come back professing the opposite belief over a short time may be considered brainwashed. The final component of brainwashing according to Taylor is brainstorming as the only way out. When people seek explanation without finding them, they may settle at the nearest belief, not because it is satisfactory, but because there is no better one. Those who belong to cults emphasize the importance of being in a group. Not all aspects of a cult are bad. When members of a given cult are distressed, they offer comfort. Majority of cults that are very dangerous and highly feared instill fear in people as a self defense mechanism. The negative connotations associated with their reference by the rest of the society makes them feel threatened. To stamp their right to exist amid many enemies, they tend to do things that make them feared. This creates a sense of security to members.

Brainwashing happens in almost all fields of life. The social groups in which people belong brainwashes them. Though not in a large scale, they have their percentage of influence to its members. Belonging to any given group means abiding by its rules. Some of these rules may include believing in some ways that one did not before joining the group. Depending on the importance of the group to the member, compliance will vary. Orienting oneself to the goals and beliefs of the groups means that one may not have of a choice but to comply.

According to krugman, the mind of a person does not actively concentrate on the materials being displayed by the television at the time when they are being transmitted. This phenomenon however changes when a display of a product that had been advertised comes to sight. The information in our subconscious mind starts interacting with the feature of the product. The mind is able to retrieve the information that had been displayed by the television when there was no active attention on the part of the viewer. The commercial that had been run in the television starts evoking certain sensations that makes one wish to purchase the product.

David (2005) after doing his research on the membership and retention of people who join cult groups, he found out that brainwashing was more of an interpretive concept as opposed to empirical concepts. This means that brainwashing cannot be disapproved using empirical methods. David asserts that this finding is based on another discovery during the research that people may have been presented with the same empirical situation, belong to the same cult but generally differ on whether they were brainwashed to join the cult or not. The predisposing factors that one was exposed to before he joined the cult and after leaving the group influences people's reaction on whether they we re brainwashed to join the cults or they joined the cults out of their own will. Those who abandon the group and join ant cult movements claim that they were brainwashed in to joining the group. However, those who have abandoned the cult but have not joined ant cult movements are of the opinion that they joined the cult out of willingness and not through brainwashing.

Theories are usually possible explanations to a phenomenon. They portray the effort of people to explain of find solutions to problems in their environment. After the emergence of New Religious Movements, many youths in America joined the groups. Regardless of their upbringing, they seemed to defy all expectations of parents. This prompted scientists in looking for possible solutions to these unexpected behaviors. Siegelm and Conway (1978) explained that there was an abrupt Disorientation of personality in those people who joined the new religious groups. They argued that the youths who joined these new groups were exposed to situations that reduced their brain activity that eventually changed their thinking. In these situations, these scientists described the brain as being under pressure. The pressure made the brain to rearrange itself according to the information being given to them by those who were in charge of them in those religious groups.

Steven Hassan, who was social scientists, gave the suggestion that the misleading of people who are sincere can provide a platform on which thought transformation takes place. Those who were defending the new religious groups claimed that the changes that occurred in the personalities of those who joined these new religious groups were as a result of religious transformation. To give weight to their claims, they argued that such transformations had actually occurred to eminent people such as Paul the saint and the saint from Asis-Francis. Such arguments, for and against these groups brought much debate. Some of the arguments were not based on reason but emotions, especially from those who had lost their children to these groups. When scientists tracked the wave of the argument, they came to a conclusion that there was no one way through which people could agree whether there existed social processes that tried to be coercive. Scientist also lacked a way of determining whether people joined these groups willingly or through brainwashing.

As a result of these varied views, more people went into the field of studying religious movements. The outcome of these studies was a lot of influence imparted on followers by new religious Organizations. Such influence was discovered to have a probability of having resulted from indoctrination and being provided with the wrong information. The social scientists did not find any big difference between the influence by the new religious groups on their members and the normal influence exercised by human beings in all realms of their life.

The brainwashing theories of today and those of earlier times differ. Today's theories of today assume that people can be influence to a greater extent by the application of complicated brainwashing techniques. This disregards the fact that human beings are very complex and their behavior is hard to determine or predict. Likewise, those theories that had been developed before did not cover enough scope. Moreover, the size of the samples used was not sufficient enough to warrant the generalization of the findings from the sample. For these older theories to be effectively applicable today, they should be modified to ensure that they have not been passed by time.

Some writers who had developed theories have detached themselves from them. They have actually put disclaimers forward that in no way should the theories they initiated be associated with them. However, those who refuse to be associated with the theories may have some viable reasons. In the society, there are people who use brainwashing theories to attack cults and other religious groups. Since such actions were not the initial intentions of the writers, they may disclaim them on the basis that they don't want their names to be implicated in politics of the society.

Additional literature

As discussed earlier mind control can be used generally in many controversial theories and it can be manipulated at anytime by external sources. Brainwashing has extended to other fields and registered some success. Stephen A. Kent describes how brainwashing is used by those who are non-sociologist (2000-2007) in other topics.

Modification of teen behavior

There are camps which are put in place to serve as correction system as well as penal in various countries. They were put in place after the military camps of recruitment and are based on shock incarceration based on military techniques. In the same context boot camps which uses the same criteria provides parents with solutions and ability to regain control of their misbehaved teens by modifying their behavior. These camps are said to have a 97% parent satisfaction guarantee in restoring defiant adolescents by effecting behavior improvement. The interesting part of it is that the parents are the ones who determine the fate of their teens and they cover the cost without the intervention of a judge.

However the teens consent is considered so as not to violate their rights. Many countries have been watching closely the functioning of boot camps in US but have been reluctant to adopt such. The camps have faced critics because it does not deliver its defined objectives in stead many teens have suffered harassment or they do not change at all. This might be in the sense that the vast emphasized authority only leads to frustration anger, low self esteem, resentment, aggression and short temper. These camps were banned in Florida by the then governor following the death of Martin Lee Anderson who was fourteen years of age in the boot camp. The death was caused by instructor who forced him to continue exercising after he had collapsed and mercilessly inflated ammonia gas in his nose in an attempt to revive him.

In Canada however involvement in boot camps is voluntary so as to comply with defined human rights. Canadian program is new therefore cannot be compared to US in terms of effectiveness and corrective behavior results. The general aim of these camps is to brainwash a teen mind in a corrective manner on a step by step psychological manner.

Dysfunctional corporate culture

Organization culture is a field in management with ideas that explain the attitudes, psychology, values, experience and beliefs of an entire organization. It is a collection of norms and values which are shared by individuals in an organization and they govern the way they interact among themselves and with external environment. Ravasi and Schultz (2006) states defines it as a set of mental assumptions shared that offers interpretation and action by dictating the appropriate behavior. Strong culture is believed to exist when employees respond to stimulus as a result of their strong alignment to the b values of the organization. However there are situations where there is no strong culture because of lack of alignment to organizational values. In this case bureaucracy and extensive procedures are exercised. Research indicates that organizations with strong cultures have precise values which give reason to employees to embrace them. Culture acts as a brain wash as it induces values and characteristics in people's mind which were not there before and they lose what they had before.

Interpersonal violence

Violence can be defined as the expression of force which is physical against one or more people. It is world widely used as a manipulating tool and also in an area of law with an aim to   suppress it. The causes of those violent behaviors emerge as topics of research in sociology and psychology. Scientists fail to agree on whether violence in human beings is inherent. Violence is both a matter of perception as well as phenomenon which is measurable.  For example in a case where execution is carried out, we do not perceive the person doing it as being violent but we accuse the state of being violent. Due to this perception people will at no time perceive defensive force as being violent even when it is far much greater than the aggression.

Research has concluded that we also do have some natural mechanism that enhances cooperation so as to keep conflict in check, to counter conflict and to channel aggression. The use of violence can as well be seen as a source of pride and an honor of defense especially among male who defines manhood in terms of violence. Steven pinker in an article of new republic "the history of violence" gives evidence that mean amount together with cruelty of violence towards people and animals has decreased over the centuries[12] enabling much efficiency in organizations.

Terrorist groups

These are terrorist organizations which are designated by governments which are current, former or inter-government where there is significance of proscription impact on group's activities. Many organizations which are often accused of terrorist organization decline using terrorism in a military tactic way in order to reach their goals.


There is no consensus among specialists concerning the existence of brainwashing although several have came up with theories that sleep deprivation, torture and other sort of techniques may affect a persons state of mind. The change effected on a person's behavior as a result of coercive persuasion is ideally possible but it does not qualify to be termed as brainwashing not unless the change in behavior has stemmed from a core change in a persons beliefs. Brainwashing is more of deliberate practice although it remains unproven. Nevertheless, the understanding one gets of reality develops from ones own environment and it follows therefore that changes in environmental factors greatly influences ones perception of reality.

People, who have experienced situations which are extreme on the concept of either natural disasters or spiritual experience that might lead to faith, are witnesses that one's view of life changes greatly following such circumstances. An example of psychological coercion is through the interrogation that is carried out by police on suspects. The way they carry it out in o forceful way results to suspects making confessions which are false and involuntary.  Richard Leo who is a recognized person in the practice of police interrogation explains that despite the fact that there are no statistics to show that false confession do occur, certain methods of investigation do have a greater tendency of producing a false confession.

Persuasion is not in any way brainwashing. It is simply a manipulation that happens on human mind without the person who is manipulated being aware. The human brain is consists of two parts that is left and right. The left part comprises of analytical and rational while the right comprise of creative and imaginative. The idea therefore is to distract and make the left brain busy. The task of a persuader is to generate an eye opener causing one to move to Alpha from Beta awareness. An example of persuasion in use is when a politician is making a speech or a lawyer in practice. Politicians start by introducing a yes as a response he/she expects from audience. For every statement he/she would make then audience automatically would respond by a yes. This continue o a point where he makes a decision /suggestion and the audience complies without knowing.

Another form of manipulation is known as intersperses technique and the theory behind it is to speak one thing using words and evoke a subconscious impression of another different thing in the mind of your listeners. A good example is when watching television and a commentator makes a statement like: "Senator Johnson is actively helping the local authorities in clearing up mistakes done by companies that contribute to the problem of nuclear waste." This may be heard as a proper statement but when given a closer look one is left with an idea that the senator is undoubtedly stupid.

The above argument clearly shows how distinct brainwashing and persuasion is in terms of evoking response to the subject. Brainwashing is more of arrogant and may in many cases use force in order to evoke response. It does this by installing fear to the subject for example when one is told not to do something lest something bad might happen after it. It is also used in military where recipients are ordered and expected to show maximum compliance with the order. Persuasion on the other hand is polite and does not use force. The subjects are just persuaded and the response they make is totally out of control because they even don't realize it. Persuasion gives the subject time to decide and do not make demands or orders to them. How they comply has nothing to do with force and they do not tend to be angry or unwilling to do it.


Persuasion and brainwashing are like two sides of a coin. The major difference between the two is that brainwashing involves the change of belief or outlook towards life. Persuasion can take as short as one minute to make a person comply with the intentions of the person evoking the response. However, brainwashing takes a longer time because it involves indoctrination and change of beliefs. A good example of brainstorming and the way it takes a longer time to evoke feelings is the case of joining a cult. Before a person becomes a member of a cult group, his or her value system must align with those of the religious group he is joining.

Changing of what one believes in is a hard task that requires time to deliberate on. The two concepts are however related in that they can be done willingly. They both involve making people things our way. The two facts of these arguments are clearly shown in the literature review and on additional literature. The various examples given and case studies add more wait in trying to show the distinctive nature of the two, that is, brainwashing and persuasion. Several authors have demonstrated studies and examinations carried out on different phenomenon and this has helped greatly in criticizing persuasion as far as brainwashing is concerned.

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