Cults and Cognition II: Programming the True Believer

Publicdomainvectors

Source: Publicdomainvectors

In our last Forensic View (Sharps, 2020), we discussed the importance of cognitive dissonance in the maintenance and even enhancement of cult beliefs.  Many of the ideas we considered are bizarre by normal standards; it’s difficult to see how a person could come to endorse such beliefs, and unless that person were relatively dissociated (see our next Forensic View), he or she probably wouldn’t.  Not while thinking as an individual.   

But what if that person is a member of a group? 

A great research psychologist once told me of his studies of monkeys.  He was having trouble distinguishing a given monkey under observation when it mixed in with its fellows, so he dabbed a little drab paint, hardly visible, onto the hindquarters of the specific monkey. 

When this painted monkey was introduced back into its troop, the psychologist anticipated no problem; the paint was practically invisible. But

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