The question of the reality of brain washing is common in American society. Brain washing is a process used to change a person’s attitude or beliefs through the use of drugs, torture, and psychological techniques, and this must all be done without the person’s consent. Many people relate the term brainwashing with non-mainstream religious movements. The recruitment tactics used by non-mainstream religious movements are rarely physically coercive, and actually are similar to recruitment techniques used by other types of organizations. A much stronger argument could be made for a person’s desire to belong to a group, and desire to fulfill other social needs. The main attack seems to be on non-mainstream religions and brain washing seems to be a tool to attack these religions. This also seems to be an attack on religious freedom in America. Many descriptions of brain washing can be explained by the theories and science of social psychology. For example, most people are susceptible to group pressure. This is true for non-mainstream religions, main stream religions, government, school, and the work place. This is actually a tool to ensure conformity with the culture of the organizations mentioned before. It would be hard to argue that people’s brains have been controlled when sub coming to social pressures. For example, if the culture of your work environment was that everyone wears business attire, and then you start to wear business attire to work on a daily basis you would not be considered to have been brain washed. You would be falling in line with the social norms of the organizational culture that you work for. If you were to engage in the same behavior in a non-mainstream religion, in terms of dressing according to culture of the religion especially at religious functions people might label you as being brain washed, but is there a difference between the work example and the religious example? The simple answer is no, the only real difference is between type of organizations. Brain washing is very difficult to prove. There are many conspiracy theorists that will tell you that there are many tools available to brain wash people, such as the television, computers, etc. However, most psychologists will tell you that for brain washing to occur the brain washer must completely govern the environment of the person being brain washed. In other words, organizations, television, computers, etc. do not exert this type of control over people. Although, brain washing is possible, it is however very difficult and highly improbable.
Nier, J. A. (2009). Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology (3rd Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.