Dark Persuasion

A History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media

Joel E. Dimsdale

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This gripping book traces the evolution of brainwashing in the twentieth century. With its beginnings in torture and religious conversion, brainwashing was transformed when Pavlov introduced scientific approaches. His research was enthusiastically supported by Lenin and Stalin, and many believe that his techniques helped elicit the Soviet Show Trial confessions. When World War II erupted, governments raced to develop drugs for interrogation, but, unlike the Show Trials, this work on persuasion was not on display to the public.

Brainwashing returned to the spotlight during the Cold War in the hands of the North Koreans and Chinese. In response, a huge Manhattan Project of the Mind was established to study memory obliteration, indoctrination during sleep, and hallucinogens. But it wasn’t just governmental agencies that were interested in these forms of dark persuasion: cults used the techniques as well. The outcome was all too often shatteringly destructive.
 

Joel Dimsdale is Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego. He lives in San Diego, CA.
 

“A fascinating account of coercive persuasion from Pavlov to today’s mass believers in conspiracy. Provocative and eye-opening.”—Arthur Kleinman, author of The Soul of Care
 

“A remarkable history of the historical background to brainwashing in the twentieth century.”—Thomas Wise, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
ISBN: 9780300247176
Publication Date: August 10, 2021
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
32 b/w illus.
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