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The Image of Brainwashing

The Image of Brainwashing

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Published by Hadi Kobaysi
Many social scientists have harbored fear that the techniques of analyzing human behavior might fall into the hands of unscrupulous but powerful indi- viduals and organizations who would thereupon mold people as they pleased and rob individuals of their independence and identity. Here is a review article that examines at length some of the studies that have been made of brainwashing and their apparent implications. Albert D. Biderman is Senior Research Associate at the Bureau of Social Science Research.
Many social scientists have harbored fear that the techniques of analyzing human behavior might fall into the hands of unscrupulous but powerful indi- viduals and organizations who would thereupon mold people as they pleased and rob individuals of their independence and identity. Here is a review article that examines at length some of the studies that have been made of brainwashing and their apparent implications. Albert D. Biderman is Senior Research Associate at the Bureau of Social Science Research.

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Published by: Hadi Kobaysi on Sep 16, 2009
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American Association for Public Opinion Research
The Image of "Brainwashing"Author(s): Albert D. BidermanSource:
The Public Opinion Quarterly,
Vol. 26, No. 4 (Winter, 1962), pp. 547-563Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for PublicOpinion ResearchStable URL:
Accessed: 09/07/2009 11:38
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aapor.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
 American Association for Public Opinion Research
and
Oxford University Press
are collaborating with JSTORto digitize, preserve and extend access to
The Public Opinion Quarterly.
http://www.jstor.org
 
THEIMAGE OF "BRAINWASHING"
BY ALBERTD. BIDERMANManysocialscientists haveharboredfear thatthe techniquesof analyzinghumanbehaviormight fall intothe hands of unscrupulousbut powerfulindi-vidualsandorganizationswhowould thereuponmold peopleasthey pleasedandrobindividuals of theirindependence andidentity. Hereis a reviewarticlethatexamines at lengthsome of the studiesthat havebeenmade ofbrainwashingnd their apparentmplications.Albert D.Biderman is SeniorResearchAssociateat the Bureauof SocialScienceResearch.
A
NUMBER ofyearsago,atelevisionjournalistasked mewhat
thedifferencewas betweenthe researchwesocial scientistsdid whenworkingon a subjectlike "brainwashing"andwhathe and his fellowjournalistsdidwhen "researchingthestory."This televisionproducerhadinterviewed severalformer victimsof"brainwashing,"had read numerousbooks on thesubject,hadcon-sultedavariety of experts,had scanned some"ironcurtain"countrydocuments,andafterabout six weeks ofwork,hadascripthewasreadyto"shoot.""Iguessa major differenceinthis case,"I told him,"is that wesocial scientiststakeoneheck ofalotlongerto coverthestory."In1951,shortlyafter the Chinese Communistsfirst soughtto con-solidatetheirvictoryinthe "War ofLiberation"byintensiveandextensiveprogramsof"thought reform,"the journalistEdwardHunterpublishedthe bookBrainwashing in RedChina.' Since thenthe word"brainwashing"has becomeafixtureof our language.Inthedecade since theappearanceof Hunter's book,the publicmeaningsofthe term havebeendetermined largely bywritingsofjournalistsandautobiographiesofvictims,ratherthanbythe researchofscholarsandscientists. This is true whether"brainwashing"is usedwithspecificreferencetoChinese Communistpracticesandtheirresultsor asa more diffuseterm of abuse to refertoany persuasiveattemptonedislikes.Untilrecently,theonlybooksbyscientistsandscholarsonthesubjectreflectedlittleifanyfirsthandresearch andreliedheavilyonjournalists'accounts.Almostwithoutexception,thewritingsinbooks byscientistshavebeenanxiousalarmsaboutthe threatto humanvalues posedby"brainwashing,"ratherthanundertakingswithatrulyscientificpurpose.
1
EdwardHunter,BrainwashinginRedChina,NewYork,Vanguard,
i9,5.
 
548PUBLICOPINION QUARTERLY
SCHOLARLYWRITINGS
In1961ten years afterHunter enteredthe term"brainwashing"into Westernparlance-thefirst scholarlybooks presentingoriginalresearch onChinese Communist"brainwashing"werepublished. Thepresent reviewdeals withtwo of these works.In the first,a psychiatrist,Robert J. Lifton,2presentseleven detailedinterpretivecase studies fromhis study offorty personswhom we wouldcall "victims"and the Com-munists wouldcall "beneficiaries"of"thought reform."His cases in-cludetwenty-fiveEuropeansand Americanswho hadbeen imprisonedinRedChina and fifteenChinese who cameto Hong Kongafter experi-encing"thought reform."Lifton proceedsfrom these casesto psychologi-cal,historical, cultural,political,and philosophicalreflections onChinese"thought reform,"inparticular,and, more generally,on "thepsychologyof totalism,"onorganizedattemptsatre-educationandpersonchange, and on thenatureofthehealthy ego. The secondbook, byEdgar H. Schein,a social psychologist,withsubordinate by-linesforInge Schneierand CurtisH.Barker,3alsoaimsat ageneraltreatmentof "brainwashing."On manyimportant ques-tions,itsfindingsand interpretations arehighly consistentwiththosepresentedby Lifton. LikeLifton, the authorsreview agreat deal of thepublishedandunpublishedmaterialon"brainwashing."Scheinandhisassociates alsopresent theirownmodelof"coercive persuasion."It con-ceivesoftheprocessinterms of"unfreezing,""changing,"and"re-freezing"forces. In a morefocusedandcatholic fashion than Lifton,they explorethe varioustheoreticalperspectivesfrom which otherwriters haveviewed thetopic.Theoriginalresearchthey report,how-ever,is limitedtoastudyoffifteenoftheAmericancivilianswho re-turned afterimprisonmentinRedChina.Inorientationandstyle,theScheinbook isalsoquitedifferentfrom Lifton's.Bothworksunderreview devoteconsiderable attention to theques-tionofhowvariouspracticesand institutions in the freeworldarelikeor unlikeChinese"thoughtreform."Possibly,thenature anddegreeofthesewriters'concern,as well asthenatureoftheanswersthey giveto suchquestions,are affectedbytheir owncommitmentstoinstitutionsoriented toproducingpersonalchange-Liftontopsycho-analyticallyorientedpsychiatry,Schein to the NationalTrainingLaboratoriesprogramatBethel,Maine.
2
RobertJ. Lifton, Thought ReformandthePsychology ofTotalism:AStudy of"Brainwashing"inChina,NewYork, Norton,
1961,
510 pp., $6.95.
3
EdgarH. ScheinwithIngeSchneierandCurtis H.Barker,CoercivePersuasion:ASocio-psychologicalAnalysis ofthe"Brainwashing" ofAmericanCivilianPrisonersbythe ChineseCommunists,NewYork, Norton,
1961,
320
pp., $6.75.

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