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Battle for the mind;: A physiology of conversion and brain-washing (Pan piper) Unknown Binding – 1966

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Editorial Reviews


?Battle for the Mind is a welcome...alert-siren sounded by a man of science deeply concerned with the preservation of free thought and a truly democratic way of life.?-San Francisco Chronicle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Charles Swencionis, Ph.D. teaches at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, Bronx, New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pan piper
  • Unknown Binding: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books; Revised edition (1966)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007JR4DU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,613,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on January 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
_Battle for the Mind_ presents a model for the physiological processes behind dramatic religious or political conversions and brainwashing based on the experiments of the Russian neuro-physiologist, I. P. Pavlov. Pavlov conducted experiments on dogs and found "equivalent" (in which the brain gives the same response to both strong and weak stimuli), "paradoxical" (in which the brain gives a response to weak stimuli but not to strong stimuli), and "ultra-paradoxical" (in which the brain gives a positive response to weak stimuli and a negative response to strong stimuli) behavior patterns present in the dogs under different conditions. From his experiments, he concluded that all dogs have a "breaking-point". Using these results, William Sargant (who worked with patients suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD) symptoms during the war) examines the phenomena of religious conversion and persuasion as well as brainwashing. Sargant conjectures that similiarly, all humans have a "breaking-point". The book includes discussion of war victims, religious and political conversions (especially emphasizing the techniques of Wesley in his mass conversions of people to Christianity), possession and rhythmic dance, brainwashing in ancient and modern times, as well as the eliciting of confessions. Much food for thought is presented as the author retells the stories of various individuals who have undergone drastic conversions or who have exhibited various forms of "paradoxical" behavior under the presence of sufficient stressors. The discussion of confession is particularly interesting, in that it reveals that often the interrogator becomes just as deluded as the confessor may be.Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Whitney on September 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Graves scholars claim that Graves "Englished" (that is, rewrote) this book for Sargant, which might help explain how such a complex subject ended up getting explained so clearly. Graves's involvement might also explain how Sargant was able to draw evidence from such an incredible range of history to explain his basic thesis. The result is an excellent book for psychologists and also for historians. What do these things have in common - Methodist sermons, ancient Greek mysteries, Jesuit training, battlefield fatigue in WWI and WWII, Voodoo ceremonies, rock and roll dancing, and the flood that almost killed Pavlov's dogs? They all show that under severe and/or prolonged stress, the mind can change radically, profoundly, and with lasting results. In all cases, Sargant concluded, it's a manifestation of a "normal" psychological process by the brain of accommodation to circumstances, which under severely abnormal circumstances can result in very surprising and strange accommodations indeed. When the mind is in such a "wiped" state, it can be reconstructed in many ways. Brainwashers, Sargant shows, use the state to get people to do things they normally wouldn't consider. A compassionate psychologist, however, can use this state to genuinely help a person recover from the trauma. Or, as in many religious conversions and "mystical" experiences as far back as ancient times, prolonged stress can actually be used therapeutically. Sargant clearly speaks from a great range of professional experience. He's not speculating.
If you've read Graves poetry, much influenced in the early stages by horrific personal experiences on World War I battlefields, this collaboration has something poignant about it. According to Sargant, Graves convinced him to write the book and it's easy to understand Graves's enthusiasm for what Sargant had to say. The result is an important (and also very readable) book.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tom Gray on June 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an important book for what it reveals about the nature of interrogation. Interrogation, as it is practiced' is not about finding the truth but about creating a set of new beliefs in the prisoner. As the author, Sargent, points out this may be entirely unintentional on the part of the questioner. However the techniques they use to overcome their subject's resistance act to put him/her in a state of heightened suggestibility. The examiner by his/her questions supplies to the subject the substance of new beliefs. The stress that they put the subject under cause distinct and predictable physiological effects that result in the subject losing his/her previous sets of beliefs.

Sargent illustrates this by reference to techniques used in religious conversions and Soviet and Chinese brain washing and re-education. Sargent shows that the same techniques of overwhelming the subject with stress and then offering a way out have been sued for thousands of years in this regard. He describes Soviet era questioning, the evangelism of John Wesley, Chinese re-education camps and shows that they all have the same effect of converting the subject to a new way of belief that is desired by the examiner. The subjects of Soviet show trials did not confess because they feared more pain. They confessed because they genuinely believed in Th charges against them

This puts the current discussion of torture and Guantanomo in perspective. The techniques from there that have been described in the press are not designed to elicit information under the fear of pain. They are designed to convert the prisoners to a new set of beliefs that are compatible with American interests. As Sargent shows, since the fact that the prisoners are people with strong beliefs means that they will, after conversion, hold beliefs of equal strength in the new cause. They will cooperate with the American cause because they will then believe in it with all of their hearts.
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