Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Become a Cult Leader (or avoid being a follower)


    1. Create your own social reality
      1. Define boundaries between believers and nonbelievers.
      2. If it's not in the cult, it’s evil.  
      3. Have a cult view -- the way the world should be seen.
      4. Repeat your message.
    2. Create a Granfalloon
      1. Create a minimal-group effect through the use of shared language and jargon.
      2. Identify your members -- a badge or name will do (its both a pledge/social commitment and social proof for everybody else)
      3. Create an out-group to hate (threats strengthen group cohesion)
    3. Create commitment
      1. Ask for a little donation, then ask for a little more.
      2. Shower affection on new recruits and mirror their interests and attitudes, creating a platform for reciprocity and future recruits to feel the need to invest in the group.
      3. Use the do-you-practice-what-you-preach approach to humiliate your recruits, then ask them to invest even more in the group to demonstrate their commitment
      4. Bem’s self-perception theory will start to work once people have made a few commitments.
    4. Create credibility and authority for the leader
      1. Have your members create a myth around you, to create credibility.
    5. Send out members to proselytize
      1. This increases the group size, leading to more social proof.
      2. More importantly, it leads to self-selling/persuasion of existing members, who must in arguing to convince others convince themselves.
    6. Inoculate your members against the arguments of the ‘enemy’
      1. Give them a weak taste of the enemy's arguments, then strongly refute those arguments.
      2. This strengthens your recruits to deal with attacks on your beliefs.
    7. Distract members from thinking ‘undesirable’ thoughts
      1. Don’t leave the new recruits alone.
      2. Bombard them with messages, chants, songs, drugs, sleep deprivation, work.
      3. This induces the peripheral route to persuasion associated with the Elaboration Likelihood Method.
      4. Teach that disagreeable thoughts are evil (creating a negative association with thinking for one’s self).
    8. Create a dream of a promised land
      1. Dangle a carrot -- positive rewards ahead!
The above is meant to demonstrate some of the typical methods used by cult leaders.  It helps to have a bit of charisma too.  More information on this list can be found in an excellent book on many aspects of persuasion: Pratkanis and Aronson (1992) Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. New York: Holt.  

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