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Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control 1st Edition

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192804969
ISBN-10: 0192804960
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Editorial Reviews


"...a fascinating book whose content tends to linger long after you have put it down. Definitely a must-read for those in the social psychology field and all other psychologists interested in this area." --Doody's

About the Author

Kathleen Taylor is a research scientist in the physiology department, Oxford University. In 2003 she won first prize in both the THES/OUP Science Essay competition and the THES Humanities and Social Sciences Writing Prize.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804969
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Beginning with the stories of brainwashed American soldiers in the Korean War and ending with positive suggestions on how to avoid brainwashing, the author of this book takes the reader through a fascinating and very informative overview of the subject. Avoiding long-winded philosophical musings on free will and determinism, she instead supports her case on the reality of brainwashing with what is known about the human brain via research in neuroscience. The book is rich in information and gives the reader an understanding of to what degree the human mind can be controlled and manipulated. The author gives several examples of mental manipulation, all of these being quite frightening scenarios. It is the opinion of this reviewer that the election results of last year serve as a good contemporary example of how the press, government, public relations firms, and well-financed private interest groups can exert intense influence on the minds of a large portion of the American public. The outcome of that election serves as a grim reminder of how a passive, uncritical frame of mind can be filled with ideas and impressions that bear no resemblance to reality.

When reading the book, it is interesting to learn that the Chinese Communists did not view their methods as being coercive. They however viewed their "re-education" efforts as being "morally uplifting", and evidently applied them with the conviction that they were releasing their victims of "reactionary" or "imperialist" thoughts. This brings the issue of whether indeed anyone can claim that a certain collection of ideas is "bad", while another collection is "good".
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Lena Phoenix on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I got this book hoping that it would provide me with scientific evidence that would help me develop a more informed opinion on the controversial issue of brainwashing. Unfortunately, Taylor points out that it is ethically impossible to conduct controlled brainwashing studies, so I did not find the specific evidence I was looking for. What the book does provide, however, is a detailed discussion of what science can tell us about how we come to believe what we do, and how influence attempts can impact that process.

Taylor's discussion of influence techniques is thorough, ranging from advertising and education through systematic techniques used by cult leaders to the physical abuse used on American prisoners during the Korean War. By diving into neuroscience to detail how concepts and ideas are established in the brain, Taylor offers insight into how different kinds of manipulation attempts try to change how people think about the world around them. Her discussion of how skilled manipulators work to link strong emotion to a new idea in attempt to bypass the critical thought processes that would make people stop and think is particularly important for people interested in cultic issues.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Anthony R. Dickinson on January 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Not so much a 'how to ...' guide to brainwashing, as a 'how to avoid being brainwashed', Taylor's 15 chapter volume is a timely addition to the bookshelf. Presented as being as much a social, as a political method of persuasion, the author puts forward the topic of brainwashing as covering a wide spectrum of human activity, from the overt, deliberate and forceful breakdown in torture chambers, to the more subtle expressions of emotional blackmail from family members and loved ones. Perhaps lacking, however, was any in-depth discussion of the effects of various public media, product marketing strategies and corporate advertising, which are also geared toward the "alteration of a second person's thoughts and feelings". A further welcome addition, would have been some discussion of the value of brainwashing reversal, and torture victim rehabilitation, beyond that illustrated by Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange'. Taylor's examples of successful brainwashing cover both fictional (e.g., '1984' and 'The Manchurian Candidate') as well as non-fictional scenarios (incl. The Manson Family and the Jonestown Massacre) by way of introduction, but there is little new for the hardened conspiracy theorist to take away from these chapters.

In an attempt to explain the formation, development and cohesion of cult groups, and in particular their members willingness to perform anti-social and illegal acts, Taylor reviews a number of putative mechanisms underlying such conformative behavior, much of which will be familiar territory to both social and cognitive psychologists. But more importantly, the better value of this book may be revealed in its attempts to discuss the underlying neural mechanisms that are involved in the "business of changing people's minds".
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Free Speech on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In the first fifty pages of Brainwashing, The Science of Thought Control, we encounter the theory of a framework for brainwashing identified by Robert Lifton. He asserts the following are identifiable elements of brainwashing. I theorize their corporate manifestations below in the context of de facto cult dominated corporations in America today:

1.Millieu Control - Control over a workplace and those who work there, as well as manipulation of related behavior, creates an environment in which it is easy to determine those with whom employees come into contact. Add bias in hiring based on identifiable membership in a group via behavior that can be probed by management or other "initiated" personnel. Empower this mode of employment bias long enough, and entire cities and regions could conceivably become subject to such an influence, inevitably causing it to arise with stealth at the core of a national agenda. Allow for the inevitable "feedback" of such bias and preferential treatment into government and law enforcement, and indoctrination could, in turn, rapidly be perceived as a force that can, without fear of prosecution or the threat of a day in court or jail, influence what is heard and what one encounters outside the workplace, reinforcing millieu control everywhere within an unindoctrinated person's environment. It is reasonable to assume that it may simply be a matter of time before the environment outside of workplaces becomes subject to millieu control once law enforcement is tainted in an affected city.
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