Brainwashing  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subject’s ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into the subject’s mind, as well as to change their attitudes, values, and beliefs.

The concept of brainwashing was originally developed during the Korean War to explain how Chinese captors appeared to make American prisoners of war cooperate with them. Advocates of the concept also looked at Nazi Germany and at some criminal cases in the United States. The concept of mind control was later expanded and modified by psychologists including Margaret Singer and Philip Zimbardo to explain conversions to some new religious movements (NRMs). This resulted in scientific and legal debate; with Eileen Barker, James Richardson, and other scholars, as well as legal experts, rejecting at least the popular understanding of the concept.

The concept of brainwashing is sometimes involved in legal cases, especially regarding child custody; and is also a major theme in both science fiction and in criticism of modern political and corporate culture. However, in the view of most scholars, it is not accepted as scientific fact.

Popularization

In George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four the main character is subjected to imprisonment, isolation, and torture in order to bring his thoughts and emotions in line with the wishes of the rulers of Orwell's fictional future totalitarian society. Orwell's vision influenced Hunter and is still reflected in the popular understanding of the concept of brainwashing.

In the 1950s many American movies were filmed that featured brainwashing of POWs, including The Rack, The Bamboo Prison, Toward the Unknown, and The Fearmakers. Forbidden Area told the story of Soviet secret agents who had been brainwashed (through classical conditioning) by their own government so they wouldn't reveal their true identities. In 1962 The Manchurian Candidate "put brainwashing front and center" by featuring a plot by the Soviet government to take over the United States by use of a brainwashed presidential candidate. The concept of brainwashing became popularly associated with the research of Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov; which mostly involved dogs, not humans, as subjects. In The Manchurian Candidate the head brainwasher is Dr. Yen Lo, of the Pavlov Institute.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Brainwashing" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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