What Does Science Say About Brainwashing?

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Brainwashing is a term that emerged in the 1950s to explain the changes in belief systems and ideologies exhibited by US soldiers after they were released from detainment in China. Today, psychologists prefer the term coercive persuasion. In recent decades, researchers have unpacked the process involved in changing one’s entire belief systems through force.
The name Rev. Jim Jones might ring a bell for some of you. If not, then you might be more familiar with the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”, which was born from the infamous Jonestown massacre in 1978.

This massacre revealed one of the most unbelievable and gruesome sides of humankind. Jim Jones was a charismatic leader who managed to convince 900 people to commit mass suicide, including many small children!

Imagine finding hundreds of bodies lying on top of each other because some guy said drinking fruit punch laced with cyanide was the only way to go. What could possess someone to willingly do something like that to themselves and their children?

Most people will tell you that these people were ‘brainwashed’ into committing such an act.

Upon hearing such stories, I grew up believing that anyone could be brainwashed to do anything. After all, what other possible reason could there be for 900 people to kill themselves like that?

So… what can science really tell us about brainwashing?

Content retrieved from: https://www.scienceabc.com/eyeopeners/what-does-science-say-about-brainwashing.html.

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