“Mind control” or “brainwashing” refers to the unethical use of persuasion methods with the aim of recruiting people into joining or remaining involved with a group, movement, relationship or cause.
Nowadays the terms mind control or brainwashing are often replaced with current terminology: extreme, destructive influence, or undue influence. The latter actually is a legal term.
Many groups use unethical persuasion tactics in recruiting and retaining members. These methods can range from love bombing to scare tactics (imposing high exit costs, e.g. convincing a person that leaving the group means losing one’s salvation).
While such psychological manipulation is a form of mind control, the publishers of Apologetics Index do not hold the view that individuals who join – or remain with – cultic movements become irresponsible, mindless automatons, unable to think for themselves.
Rather, we regard Phillip Zimbardo‘s view on this issue as realistic:
A remarkable thing about cult mind control is that it’s so ordinary in the tactics and strategies of social influence employed. They are variants of well-known social psychological principles of compliance, conformity, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, framing, emotional manipulation, and others that are used on all of us daily to entice us: to buy, to try, to donate, to vote, to join, to change, to believe, to love, to hate the enemy.
Cult mind control is not different in kind from these everyday varieties, but in its greater intensity, persistence, duration, and scope. One difference is in its greater efforts to block quitting the group, by imposing high exit costs, replete with induced phobias of harm, failure, and personal isolation. – Source: What Is The Message Behind Today’s Cults? by Phillip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D.
Techniques of mind control Excellent overview
Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild
Behind the front lines of every war in the world, prisoners are forced to sit for interrogation: manipulated, coerced, and sometimes tortured–often without ever being touched. Brainwash is a history of the methods intended to destroy and reconstruct the minds of captives, to extract information, convert dissidents, and lead peaceful men to kill and be killed.
With access to formerly classified documentation and interviews from the CIA, U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and British Intelligence Corps, Dominic Streatfeild traces the evolution of mind control from its origins in the Cold War to the height of today’s war on terror. Vivid and disturbing, Brainwash is essential insight into the modern practice of interrogation and torture.
See Combating Cult Mind Control, by cult expert Steven Hassan.