Robert Jay Lifton is an American psychiatrist and author.
He is known for his studies of the psychological causes and effects of war and political violence, and well as for his theory of thought reform — a practice more often referred to as brainwashing or mind control.
In Chapter 22 of his book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China, Lifton describes eight methods which he says are used to change people’s minds without their agreement:
- Milieu Control – The control of information and communication.
- Mystical Manipulation – The manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated.
- Demand for Purity – The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection.
- Confession – Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group.
- Sacred Science – The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.
- Loading the Language – The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand.
- Doctrine over person – The member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
- Dispensing of existence – The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.