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Edited by Piotr Nowakowski Publisher: Maternus (Jan 2007) Perfect Paperback ISBN-13: 978-8375690255

e Phenomenon of Cults from a Scienti c Perspective

Chapter 10

Development of the Study of Mind Control in Japan


by Kimiaki Nishida Recently, psychologists in Japan have been examining a contemporary social issue certain social groups recruit new members by means of psychologically manipulative techniques called mind control. ey then exhort their members to engage in various antisocial behaviors, from deceptive sales solicitation and forcible donation to suicide and murder. We classify such harmful groups as cults or even destructive cults. Psychologists concerned with this problem must explain why ordinary, even highly educated people devote their lives to such groups, fully aware that many of their activities deviate from social norms, violate the law, and may injure their health. Psychologists are now also involved in the issue of facilitating the recovery of distressed cult members a er they leave such groups. Background In the 1970s, hardly anyone in Japan was familiar with the term destructive cult. Even if they had been informed of cult activities, such as the 1978 Jonestown tragedy, in which 912 members of the Guyana-based American cult were murdered or committed suicide, most Japanese people would have thought the incident a sensational, curious, and inexplicable event. Because the events at Jonestown occurred overseas, Japanese people, except possibly those worried parents whose child had joined a radical cult, would not have shown any real interest. In the 1980s, a number of Japanese, including journalists and lawyers, became concerned about the unethical activities of the Uni cation Church, whose members worshiped their so-called True Father, the cults Korean founder Sun Myung Moon, who proclaimed the Second Advent of Christ. One of the groups activities entailed a shady fund-raising campaign. Another unethical activity of the cult in the 1980s was Reikan-Shh, a swindle in which they sold spiritual goods, such as lucky seals, Buddhist rosaries, lucky-tower [pagoda] ornaments, and so on. e goods were unreasonably expensive but the intimidated customers bought them to avoid possible future misfortune. e rst Japanese anticult organization was established in 1987 to stop the activities of the Uni cation Church. e organization consisted of lawyers who helped Reikan-Shh victims all over Japan (see Yamaguchi 2001). According to their investigation, the lawyers organization determined that the Uni cation Church in Japan engaged in three unethical practices. First, large amounts of money were collected through deceptive means. Under duress, customers desperate to improve their fortunes bankrupted themselves buying the cults spiritual goods. Second, members participated in mass marriages arranged by the cult without the partners getting to know each other, a er the partners were told by the cult leader that their marriage would save their families and ancestors from calamity. ird, the church practiced mind control, restricting members individual freedom, and employing them in forced labor, which o en involved illegal activity. Mind-controlled members were convinced their endeavors would liberate their fellow beings. e 1990s saw studies by a few Japanese psychological researchers who were interested in the cult problem. By the mid-1990s, Japanese courts had already acknowledged two Uni cation Church liabilities during proceedings the lawyers had brought against the cult; namely, mass marriage and illegal Reikan-shh. (see Judgment by the Fukuoka [Japan] District Court on the Uni cation Church 1995). e lawyers main objective, however, had been that the court con rm the Uni cation Churchs psychological manipulation of cultists, a ruling that would recognize these members as being under the duress of forced labor. Around the same period, Aum Shinriky, a nihilist Japanese Buddhist sect established by Guru Asahara Syoko, also became involved in many crimes. However, nobody except some members families knew about the cults activities. Concerned members families who were apprehensive about the cults activities, which they claimed were dangerous for both its members and society, established an anti-Aum organization. e anti-Aum group appealed to cult members to leave the organization. In spite of those e orts, Aums membership and power expanded over the next ten years. Even the police and media were unable to expose the cults covert crimes because Aum skillfully hid behind its legal right to religious freedom. On March 20, 1995, Aum mounted a sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway, which killed eleven people and injured about 5,000. Consequently, Tokyo police initiated a compulsory investigation of the cult. Following the attack, the Japanese began to learn about cults and mind control (see Hirata 2001). Although most of the criminals associated with the sarin attack were arrested, the cults motives remain unclear. A decade later, Guru Asahara has yet to divulge his rationale. 1

Since the onset of Aum Shinrikys terrorist activities, Japanese society has still not reestablished its pre-cult harmony. Moreover, we have begun to discover other cults that may pose a threat to the concord of our society. What Is Mind Control? Early in the study of mind control, the term was equated with the military strategy of brainwashing. Mind control initially was referred to in the United States as thought reform or coercive persuasion (Li on 1961; Schein, Schneier, and Barker 1961). Currently, however, mind control is considered to be a more sophisticated method of psychological manipulation that relies on subtler means than physical detention and torture (Hassan 1988). In fact, people who have succumbed to cult-based mind control consider themselves to have made their decision to join a cult of their own free will. We presume that brainwashing is a behavioral-compliance technique in which individuals subjected to mind control come to accept fundamental changes to their belief system. Cult mind control may be de ned as temporary or permanent psychological manipulation by people who recruit and indoctrinate cult members, in uencing their behavior and mental processes in compliance with the cult leaderships desires, and of which control members remain naive (Nishida 1995a). A er the Aum attacks, Ando, Tsuchida, Imai, Shiomura, Murata, Watanabe, Nishida, and Genjida (1998) surveyed almost 9,000 Japanese college students. e questionnaire was designed to determine: whether the students had been approached by cults and, if so, how they had reacted; their perception of alleged cult mind-control techniques; and how their psychological needs determined their reactions when the cults had attempted to recruit them. Andos survey results showed that about 20% of respondent impressions of the recruiter were somewhat favorable, in comparison with their impressions of salespersons. However, their compliance level was rather low. e regression analysis showed that the students tended to comply with the recruiters overture when: they were interested in what the agent told them; they were not in a hurry; they had no reason to refuse; they liked the agent; or they were told that they had been specially selected, could gain knowledge of the truth, and could acquire special new abilities. When asked to evaluate people who were in uenced or mind controlled by a cult, respondents tended to think it was inevitable those people succumbed, and they put less emphasis on members individual social responsibility. When mind control led to a criminal act, however, they tended to attribute responsibility to the individual. More than 70% of respondents answered in the a rmative when asked whether they themselves could resist being subjected to mind control, a result that con rms the students naivet about their own personal vulnerability. e respondents needs or values had little e ect on their reactions to, interest in, and impressions of cult agents attempts to recruit them. Mind Control as Psychological Manipulation of Cult Membership Nishida (1994, 1995b) investigated the process of belief-system change caused by mind control as practiced by a religious cult. His empirical study evaluated a questionnaire administered to 272 former group members, content analysis of the dogma in the groups publications, videotapes of lectures on dogma, the recruiting and seminar manuals, and supplementary interviews with former members of the group. Cult Indoctrination Process by Means of Psychological Manipulation In one of his studies, Nishida (1994) found that recruiters o er the targets a new belief system, based on ve schemas. ese schemas comprise: 1 notions of self concerning ones life purpose; 2 ideals governing the type of individual, society, and world there ought to be; 3 goals related to correct action on the part of individuals; 4 notions of causality, or which laws of nature operate in the worlds history; and 5 trust that authority will decree the criteria for right and wrong, good and evil. Content analysis of the groups dogma showed that its recruitment process restructures the targets belief-system, replacing former values with new ones advocated by the group, based on the above schemas. Abelson (1986) argues that beliefs are metaphorically similar to possessions. He posits that we collect whatever beliefs appeal to us, as if working in a room where we arrange our favorite furniture and objects. He proposes that we 2

transform our beliefs into a new cognitive system of neural connections, which may be regarded as the tools for decision making. Just as favorite tools are o en placed in the central part of a room, or in a harmonious place, it appears that highly valued beliefs are located for easy access in cognitive processing. Meanwhile, much as worn-out tools are o en hidden from sight in corners or storerooms, less-valued beliefs are relocated where they cannot be easily accessed for cognitive processing. Individual changes in belief are illustrated with the replacement of a piece of the furniture while a complete belief-system change is represented as exchanging all of ones furniture and goods, and even the design and color of our room. e belief-system change, such as occurs during the recruitment and indoctrination process, is metaphorically represented in Figure 1, starting with a functional room with its hierarchy of furniture or tools, and progressing through the stages of recruitment and indoctrination to the point at which the functional room has been replaced by a new set of furniture and tools that represent the altered belief system. Step 0. in the Figure shows the ve schemas as a set of the thought tools that potential recruits hold prior to their contact with the group. Step 1. Governed by their trust in authority, targets undergoing indoctrination remain naive about the actual group name, its true purpose, and the dogma that is meant to radically transform the belief system they have held until their contact with the group. At this stage of psychological manipulation, because most Japanese are likely to guard against religious solicitation, the recruiter puts on a good face. e recruiter approaches the targets with an especially warm greeting and assesses their vulnerabilities in order to confound them. Step 2. While the new ideals and goals are quite appealing to targets, their con dence level in the new notions of causality also rises; some residual beliefs may remain at this stage. e targets must be indoctrinated in isolation so that they remain unaware that the dogma they are absorbing is a part of cult recruitment. us isolated, they cannot sustain their own residual beliefs through observing the other targets; the indoctrination environment tolerates no social reality (Festinger 1954). e goal for this stage is for the targets to learn the dogma by heart and embrace it as their new belief, even if it might seem strange or incomprehensible. Figure 1. Metamorphosis of the belief system change by cultic psychological manipulation.
Step 0

Step 1 Step 5

Step 2

Step 4 Step 3

SELF beliefs,

GOAL beliefs,

AUTHORITY beliefs,

IDEAL beliefs,

CAUSALITY beliefs

Each ellipse represents the working space for decision making. e shapes colored black in the ellipse represent the newly inputted beliefs. e large shapes are developed beliefs, and the shapes in the middle represent beliefs that are highly valued by the individual. Step 3. At this stage, the recruiters repeated lobbying for the new belief system entices the targets to relocate those newly absorbed beliefs that appeal to them into the central area in their rooms. By evoking the others commitment, the 3

recruiter uses group pressure to constrain each target. is approach seems to induce both a collective lack of common sense (Allport 1924) and individual cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957). Step 4. As the new recruits pass through a period of concentrated study, the earlier conversion of particular values extends to their entire belief system. By the end, they have wholly embraced the new belief system. e attractive new beliefs gradually are relocated from their rooms periphery into its center, replacing older beliefs. Recently held beliefs are driven to the rooms periphery, thoroughly diminished; new, now-central beliefs coalesce, blending with the few remaining older notions. Shunning their former society, the targets begin to spend most of their time among group members. eir new social reality raises the targets conviction that the new beliefs are proper. At this time, the targets feel contentedly at home because the recruiters are still quite hospitable. Step 5. e old belief system has become as useless as dilapidated furniture or tools. With its replacement, the transformation of the new recruits belief systems results in fully con gured new beliefs, with trust in authority at their core, and thus with that authority an e ective vehicle for thought manipulation. At the nal stage of psychological manipulation, during the recruitment and indoctrination process, the recruiters invoke the charismatic leader of the group, equating the mortal with god. e recruiters instill a profound fear in the targets, fear that misfortune and calamity will beset them should they leave the cult. Cult Maintenance and Expansion through Psychological Manipulation Nishida (1995b) studied one cults method of maintaining and expanding its membership by means of psychological manipulation, or cult mind control. e results of factor analysis of his survey data revealed that cult mind-control techniques induced six situational factors that enhanced and maintained members belief-systems: (1) restriction of freedom, (2) repression of sexual passion, (3) physical exhaustion, (4) punishment for external association, (5) reward and punishment, and (6) time pressure. Studies also concluded that four types of complex psychological factors in uence, enhance, and maintain members belief systems: (1) behavior manipulation, (2) information-processing manipulation, (3) group-processing manipulation, and (4) physiological-stress manipulation. Behavior Manipulation Behavior manipulation includes the following factors: 1 Conditioning. e target members were conditioned to experience deep anxiety if they behaved against cult doctrine. During conditioning, they would o en be given small rewards when they accomplished a given task, but strong physical and mental punishment would be administered whenever they failed at a task. Self-perception. A members attitude to the group would become xed when the member was given a role to play in the group (Bem 1972; Zimbardo 1975). Cognitive dissonance. Conditions are quite rigorous because members have to work strenuously and are allowed neither personal time nor money, nor to associate with outsiders. It seems that they o en experienced strong cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957).

2 3

Information-Processing Manipulation Information-processing manipulation factors include the following: 1 Gain-loss e ect. Swings between positive and negative attitudes toward the cult became xed as more positive than negative (Aronson and Linder 1965). Many members had negative attitudes toward cults prior to contact with their group. Systemization of belief-system. In general, belief has a tenacious e ect, even when experience shows it to be erroneous (Ross, Lepper, and Hubbard 1975). Members always associate each experience with group dogma; they are indoctrinated to interpret every life event in terms of the cults belief-system. Priming e ect. It is a cognitive phenomenon that many rehearsed messages guide information processing to take a speci c direction (Srull and Wyer 1980). e members listen to the same lectures and music frequently and repeatedly, and they pray or chant many times every day. reatening messages. ey are inculcated with strong fears of personal calamity by means of occult power, nuclear war, and so on.

Group-Processing Manipulation Group-processing manipulation components include: 1 Selective exposure to information. Members avoid negative reports, but search for positive feedback once they make a commitment to the group (Festinger 1957). It should also be added that many group members continue to live in the locale in which they exited their society. Even so, new members are forbidden to have contact with out-of-group people, or access to external media. Social identity. Members identify themselves with the group because the main goal or purpose of their activity is to gain personal prestige within the group (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, and Wetherell 1987). erefore, they look upon fellow members as elite, acting for the salvation of all people. Conversely, they look on external critics as either wicked persecutors or pitiful, ignorant fools. is groupthink makes it possible for the manipulators to provoke reckless group behavior among the members (Janis 1971; Wexler 1995).

Physiological-Stress Manipulation It has been established that physiological stress factors facilitate this constraint within the group based on the following, as examples: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 urgent individual need to achieve group goals, fear of sanction and punishment, monotonous group life, sublimation of sexual drive in fatiguing hard work, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, extended prayer and / or meditation.

e Consequences of Mind Control Induced by Cultic Psychological Manipulation Psychological manipulation used by cults for mind control has two crucial consequences. One is extreme antisocial behavior, as exempli ed by mass suicides of cult members. e other is the post-exit psychological instability that former cultists experience, although it remains unclear whether this instability was caused by abusive cult practices or by coercive exit stresses, such as deprogramming. e Psychology of Antisocial Behavior as Cult Terrorism Nishida (2001) identi ed the criminal terrorist behavior of Aum Shinriky as representative of destructive cults in Japan. e purpose of his study was to investigate the psychological processes of Aum members who had committed crimes, such as producing weapons without a licence, which culminated in the deadly sarin attack. For the study, four defendants of Aum Shinriky were interviewed in jail. e defendants, labeled A, B, C, and D, committed crimes, including terrorist acts such as murder, using VX and sarin gases. At the time of their interviews, three of the defendants had decided to leave the group. Also, three of the interviewees (A, B, and C) were among the seventy-six former group members who completed questionnaires that were designed to examine their experiences and lives within the cult. It has been shown that the profound devotion to Guru Asahara was as unswerving among the highly ranked criminal defendants as it was among more lowly, innocent cultists (see Table 1). Basic statistics and factor-pattern analysis of Aums psychological manipulations also indicate that the defendants responses were stronger than innocent members responses (see Table 2). It can be concluded from the analysis that Aum believers were unconditionally deferential to Asaharas authority, and that his psychological manipulation had a more profound e ect on those members who committed serious crimes than on members who were innocent of criminal activity.

Table 1. Strength of devotion to AUM Item 1 I was convinced that the guru had supernatural power. 2 I was convinced that the guru stood aloof from all. 3 I was convinced that the guru was emancipated. 4 I intended to follow the instructions from the guru, even if they were against social rules and morals. 5 I was convinced that we could save people through the activities of the group. 6 I believed that the teachings of the group were absolutely true, even if some of them were against social norms. 7 I always followed the teachings of the group when I gured out every event. Total M 3.2 3.0 3.0 2.2 3.0 2.5 2.7 19.6 SD 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.4 1.2 1.3 1.4 9.2 A 3 3 2 4 3 3 4 22 B 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 28 C 3 3 3 2 3 3 3 20

1) M and SD values are shown of 73 former AUM members, except the three defendants. 2) = 88, N = 76.

As the defendants answers further revealed, members were warned repeatedly that the only correct manner to execute their gurus assignments was to do so unequivocally. e analysis con rms that Asahara carefully monitored cultists to determine who was su ciently obedient to commit even the most heinous crimes at his command. e higher ones status in the cult, the more deeply in uenced by Asahara one was. Psychological manipulation was most e ective among highly placed devotees, as compared with cult members of lower status. e ndings regarding the defendants psychological process during the commission of crimes must be emphasized in the analysis of the study; they committed their crimes in obedience to an authority; this obedience arose from their perception that the cults dogma was superior. In the defendants discussions of the grave matter of their terrorist murders, they looked on the killings as their personal practice that guaranteed salvation for the victims. Because they had lived under conditions of extreme physical and mental duress, however, it was di cult for them to understand that their guru had been able to dictate such terrible crimes. As such, their answers may not indicate what they truly thought, but rather what they imagined their own thoughts to have been at the time of the attack. ere is another, more sinister reason why some defendants committed such dire acts. Some were terri ed that they themselves would be killed if they disobeyed Asaharas grim orders. Other cult members almost certainly committed numerous crimes for fear of his wrath; indeed, they had seen disobedient fellow members killed, and, in fact, had been regularly threatened by Asahara with death. Post-Cult Residual Psychological Distress Over the past few decades, a considerable number of studies have been completed on the psychological problems former cult members have experienced a er leaving the cult, as compared with the mind-control process itself. It is important to note that most former members continue to experience discontent, although its cause remains controversial (Arono , Lynn, and Malinoski 2000). A few studies on cult phenomena have been conducted so far in Japan, notably by Nishida (1995a, 1998), and by Nishida and Kuroda (2003, 2004), who investigated ex-cultists post-exit problems, based mainly on questionnaires administered to former members of two di erent cults.

Table 2. Psychological manipulation in AUM: Varimax rotated factor patterns, M, SD and the criminals responses.

Item 1 Punishment and reward 1 I received mental punishment such as an insults. 2 I said good-bye to my spouse and the ones I loved. 3 I was forced to confess the sins and wrongdoings in my past. 4 I received severe corporal punishment. 5 e promotions and rewards from the guru were the sole joy and encouragement. 2 Avoidance of enemies 6 e mere idea of leaving the group scared me. 7 I believed that people outside the group were hostile to us with malice and intrigue. 8 I thought that people outside criticized us without knowing the reality. 9 I recognized that we were special and had a sense of superiority and pride. 3 Restriction of free activity 10 I couldnt come in contact freely with people outside. 11 e schedule of daily life was controlled. 12 I always felt tired. 13 I was incessantly tense because of a series of tasks to be done.

Factor loading

4 Satisfaction with life 14 I was satis ed with life that focused on the trainings. 15 I was happy to live with members in the group. Endurance of the severe lifestyle 16 I endured the severe physical trainings. 17 I endured the severe mental trainings. 18 I had to control my desire and emotion towards the opposite sex. 5 Keeping of the disciplines 19 I seriously read only the books or magazines of the group. 20 *I violated commandments secretly. 21 I couldnt watch TV or read newspapers. 22 *I had doubts and suspicions about the teachings and the group more than once. 23 I had mysterious experiences beyond my comprehension. 6 Commitment to the group 24 I was given drugs which made me feel unsound. 25 I quit my job or le school in order to join the group. 26 I donated quite a sum of property to the group.
Total 55 38 63 89 67

1) M and SD values are shown of 73 former AUM members, except the three defendants. 2) e * mark means reverse scoring items. 3) Two decimal places are shown in factor loadings. 4) = 88, N = 75.

In a series of studies, Nishida and Kuroda (2003) surveyed 157 former members of the Uni cation Church and Aum Shinriky. Using factor analysis, the studies posited eleven factors that contribute to ex-members psychological problems. ese factors can be classi ed into three main groups: (1) emotional distress, (2) mental distress, and (3) interpersonal distress. e eleven factors are (1) tendencies to depression and anxiety, (2) loss of self-esteem, (3) remorse and regret, (4) di culty in maintaining social relations and friendships, (5) di culty in family relationships, (6) oating or ashback to cultic thinking and feeling, (7) fear of sexual contact, (8) emotional instability, (9) hypochondria, (10) secrecy of cult life, and (11) anger toward the cult. ese ndings seem to have a high correlation with previous American studies. Moreover, Nishida and Kuroda (2004) deduced from their analysis of variance of the 157 former members surveyed that depression and anxiety, hypochondria, and secrecy of cult involvement decreased progressively, with the help of counseling, a er members le the cult. However, loss of self-esteem and anger toward the cult increased as a result of counseling. Furthermore, Nishida (1998) found clear gender di erences in the post-exit recovery process. Although female excultists distress levels were higher than those of the males immediately a er they le the cults, the women experienced full recovery more quickly than the men. e study also found that counseling by non-professionals works e ectively with certain types of distress, such as anxiety and helplessness, but not for others, such as regret and self-reproof. Conclusion It can be concluded from Japanese studies on destructive cults that the psychological manipulation known as cult mind control is di erent from brainwashing or coercive persuasion. Based on my empirical studies, conducted from a social psychology point of view, I concluded that many sets of social in uence are systematically applied to new recruits during the indoctrination process, in uences that facilitate ongoing control of cult members. My ndings agree with certain American studies, such as those conducted by Zimbardo and Anderson (1993), Singer and Lalich (1995), and Hassan (1988, 2000). e manipulation is powerful enough to make a vulnerable recruit believe that the only proper action is to obey the organizations leaders, in order to secure humanitys salvation, even though the requisite deed may breach social norms. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that dedicated cult veterans are subject to profound distress over the extended period of their cult involvement.

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is chapter is a reprint of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Review, 2005, Volume 4, Number 3, pages 215-232. Kimiaki Nishida, Ph.D., a social psychologist in Japan, is Associate Professor at the University of Shizuoka and a Director of the Japan Cult Recovery Council. He is a leading Japanese cultic studies scholar and the editor of Japanese Journal of Social Psychology. His studies on psychological manipulation by cults were awarded prizes by several academic societies in Japan. And he has been summoned to some courts to explain cult mind control. E-mail: nishidak@u-shizuoka-ken.ac.jp