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Some Persuasive Techniques Used by Cults

SOME PERSUASION TECHNIQUES
USED BY CULTS


(A Selected List)

PHYSICAL


TECHNIQUES HYPERVENTILATION
Continuous overbreathing causes a drop in the carbon dioxide level in the bloodstream, producing respiratory alkalosis. In its milder stages it produces dizziness or light-headedness. More prolonged overbreathing can cause panic, muscle cramps, and convulsions. Cults often have people do continuous loud shouting, chanting or singing to produce this state, which they reframe as having a spiritual experience

REPETITIVE MOTION
Constant swaying motions, clapping or almost any repeated motion helps to alter a person's general state of awareness. Dizziess can be produced by simple spinning or spin dancing, prolonged swaying and dancing. Group leaders relabel the effects of these motions as ecstasy or new levels of awareness.

BODY MANIPULATIONS
Former members report that a leader of one cult would pass among the followers pressing on their eyes until the optic nerve caused them to see flashes of light. This is called "bestowing divine light."same group members were instructed to push on their ears until they heard a buzzing sound, which was interpreted as hearing the "divine harmony."

PSYCHOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES TRANCE AND HYPNOSIS
A number of cults use hypnosis and trance to put people into altered states of consciousness, making them more compliant. Examples of techniques that induce trance include prolonged chanting, meditation, singing and phrase repetition.

GUIDED IMAGERY
Cult leaders use a number of different guided-imagery techniques to remove followers from their normal frames of reference. For example, long detailed visual stories can absorb the listeners in a trancelike state where they become more susceptible to suggestion. Another effective method popular with therapy cults uses guided imagery to regress members back to the pain and loneliness of their childhood.

Adapted from CULTS IN OUR MIDST, by Dr. Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich (Jossey-Bass Publishers, April 1995)