How can good people make terrible decisions? To fully understand brainwashing, more formally known as “coercive persuasion,” mental health clinicians must dive into the potentially dangerous outcomes that can result from a mix of factors such as high stress situations, sleep deprivation and isolation.
On this episode of The Menninger Clinic’s Mind Dive podcast, Joel Dimsdale, MD, discusses the history of brainwashing, the ease of slipping into Stockholm Syndrome and modern tools of persuasion — like social media — and the effects that clinicians need to be mindful of in patient care.
Bringing a unique perspective to the conversation, Dr. Dimsdale, began his exploration of brainwashing and its pervasive role in the 20th century after living next door to the Heaven’s Gate religious group, led by Marshall Applewhite, until the group’s highly publicized mass suicide in 1997. He is also the author of “Dark Persuasion: A History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media.”
Dr. Dimsdale is a distinguished professor emeritus and research professor in the department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego. He is also an active investigator and past president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, the American Psychosomatic Society and the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
“Much of my work reflects that I feel coercive persuasion — brainwashing — is not an old wive's tale,” said Dr. Dimsdale. “It still exists in the modern day, and we have to be on the lookout for it.”
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