Excerpted from Cults in Our Midst, Margaret Thaler Singer, p. 64-69.
1. Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how she or he is
being changed a step at a time. Potential new members are led, step by
step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final
agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them
deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or
get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader’s aim and
2. Control the person’s social and/or physical environment; especially
control the person’s time. Through various methods, newer members are
kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of
their waking time as possible.
3. Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person. This is
accomplished by getting members away from the normal social support
group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of
people are already group members. The members serve as models of the
attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
4. Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in
such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person’s former
social identity. Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through
various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques
as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions
or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.
5. Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in
order to promote learning the group’s ideology or belief system and
group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an
understanding and acceptance of the group’s beliefs, and compliance are
rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with
disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he
or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to
6. Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that
permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership
approval or executive order. The group has a top-down, pyramid
structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.