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Control Through Coercive Persuasion

             How does one define control? Webster's dictionary defines control as "to exercise restraining or directing influence over" or to regulate and rule. (Merriam-Webster's p. 252) There are many methods of control used by people and organizations. Propaganda and persuasion are two methods of exerting influence over an individual or group of people. A more systematic and powerful method of persuasion is coercive persuasion. .
             "Coercive persuasion and thought reform are alternate names for programs of social influence capable of producing substantial behavior and attitude change through the use of coercive tactics, persuasion, and/or interpersonal and group-based influence manipulations "(Ofshe, p. 222) .
             A coercive persuasion program is a behavioral change technology applied to cause the "learning" and "adoption" of a set of behaviors or an ideology under certain conditions. Coercive persuasion is not a religious ritual, it is a control device. Through coercive persuasion, a more powerful method of control can be applied. This type of persuasion is typically applied by cults but is not limited to them. (Dolan 2000; Singer 1987).
             There is instinctive human need to belong to a group. (Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001) Most people generally perceive cults as religious organizations. Cults can be defined as "Groups with religious, political, psychological, and other ideologies at their core, which almost universally offer as their central theme a special new psychological awareness handed down by an indisputable and arbitrary authority that uses the technique of thought reform (intense indoctrination or re-socialization, coercive persuasion brainwashing." (Singer, p. 1467) Cults share similarities to everyday social groups like work, school and family. "Cults use the same persuasion tactics often used by other propagandists; cults just us them in a more thorough and complete manner.

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