Brainwashing is the attempt to change the thoughts and beliefs of another person against their will.
Psychology states that the study of brainwashing, which is commonly referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of “social influence.” Social influence happens every minute of every day. It is the collection of ways in which people can change other people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. For instance, the compliance method aims to produce a change in a person’s behavior and is not concerned with his attitudes or beliefs. It is the “Just do it” approach.
Persuasion, on the other hand, aims for a change in attitude, or “Do it because it’ll make you feel good/happy/healthy/successful.” The education method (which is called the “propaganda method” when you don’t believe in what’s being taught) goes for the social-influence gold, trying to affect a change in the person’s beliefs, along the lines of “Do it because you know it’s the right thing to do.”
Brainwashing is a severe form of social influence that combines all of these approaches to cause changes in someone’s way of thinking without that person’s consent and often against his will.
It is because brainwashing is such an invasive form of influence, it requires the complete isolation and dependency of the subject, which is why you mostly hear of brainwashing occurring in prison camps or totalist cults. The agent (the brainwasher) must have complete control over the target (the brainwashee) so that sleep patterns, eating, using the bathroom and the fulfillment of other basic human needs depend on the will of the agent. In the brainwashing process, the agent systematically breaks down the target’s identity to the point that it doesn’t work anymore. The agent then replaces it with another set of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that work in the target’s current environment.
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