Brainwashing : The Science of Thought Control, Paperback

Brainwashing : The Science of Thought Control Paperback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Throughout history, humans have attempted to influence and control the thoughts of others.

Since the word 'brainwashing' was coined in the aftermath of the Korean War, it has become part of the popular culture, served as a topic for jokes, and been exploited to create sensational headlines.

It has also been the subject of learned discussion from many disciplines: including history, sociology, psychology, and psychotherapy.

But until now, a crucial part of the debate has been missing: that of any serious reference to the science of the human brain.

Descriptions of how opinions can be changed, whether by persuasion, deceit, or force, have been almost entirely psychological. In Brainwashing, Kathleen Taylor brings the worlds of neuroscience and social psychology together for the first time.

In elegant and accessible prose, and with abundant use of anecdotes and case-studies, she examines the ethical problems involved in carrying out the required experiments on humans, the limitations of animal models, and the frightening implications of such research. She also explores the history of thought-control and shows how it still exists all around us, from marketing and television, to politics and education.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages, 17 line drawings
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Psychology
  • ISBN: 9780199204786



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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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