From ArticleWorld

Though the practice has existed in some way probably since the dawning on man, the term brainwashing was coined in the 1950’s in response to what was happening in the People’s Republic of China. At that time, the communists in power used a system of techniques to change the beliefs of citizens who were considered to be against the state. They got their ideas from the Soviet Union who, in turn, was inspired by the Inquisition and so on.

Though the term does not have solid psychological support with some arguing that the phenomenon does not exist, it is something that is used and has been used widely. One could even argue that it is present in everyday society, albeit subtly, in the form of advertising, education, parenting, peer pressure and governments; anywhere persuasion is used to manipulate ideas, beliefs and behaviour.

Political brainwashing

During the Korean War in the 1950’s, a large number of American prisoners of war defected over to the side of the communists – a phenomenon that had not been seen before in such great numbers and the Americans were at a loss to explain why. Upon looking into the matter, they realized that their soldiers were being subjected to a massive campaign of brainwashing that included strategies such as dehumanization by sleep deprivation, being kept in filthy conditions, sensory deprivation and psychological harassment by an insistence on their guilt.

However, once the conditions of brainwashing were removed and freedom of information and thought reinstated, the vast majority of those who had supposedly switched their allegiances quickly switched them back.

New Religious Movements

The use of brainwashing in the converting of new recruits into new religious movements or cults has been the focus of a lot of controversy. Do cults lure potential members into a remote compound and bombard them with propaganda, then use dehumanization techniques such as sleep deprivation to make them more vulnerable? Though there have been studies into the matter, there is no conclusive evidence and so the state and scientific organizations are reluctant to commit themselves.

The crux of the matter seems to lie in the difference between influence and mind control, between persuasion and coercive persuasion.