What is Thought Reform? Lifton's Model
Posted by: Guy ()
Date: December 07, 2003 01:51PM

Here's a lovely little item for perusal from:
[www.hometown.aol.com]

What is Thought Reform?

When defining thought reform, we look to two experts in the field: Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D. and Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.:

Six Conditions for Thought Reform

Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph. D.

1. Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how she or he is being changed a step at a time. Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.
2. Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time. Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.
3. Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person. This is accomplished by getting members away from the normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members. The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
4. Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity. Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.
5. Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to be questioning.
6. Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order. The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing. (Singer, 1995)

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton's Eight Psychological Themes of a Thought Reform Program

1. Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
2. Mystical Manipulation. There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes.
3. 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. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
4. Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members' "sins," "attitudes," and "faults" are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
5. Sacred Science. The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
6. Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clich├ęs which serve to alter members' thought processes to conform to the group's way of thinking.
7. Doctrine over person. 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.
8. Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group's ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also. (Lifton, 1989)

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What is Thought Reform? Lifton's Model
Posted by: JackSF ()
Date: December 08, 2003 01:21AM

Yes. Concerns about whether a group is a cult or not, are often really about what Lifton and Singer call thought reform. These are excellent passages that I refered to often in my cult discussion in the Landmark group.
Quote

I do not believe that either Landmark or The Landmark Forum is a cult or sect, or meets the criteria of a cult or sect.
--Margaret Singer
[www.landmarkeducation.com]
Landmark uses this tiny snippet from Singer in one of the pdf files supporting Landmark's contention that they are not a cult. What's left out of course is that Landmark's lawsuit threats forced Singer to remove the entire chapter dealing Landmark and LGATs from her book, Cults in Our Midst. The missing chapter is found at this site and is how I found my way to this discussion.

[www.culteducation.com]

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