Lifton’s Criteria for Thought Reform

All the below are experienced daily in the confines of the PBCC, Exclusive Brethren Christian Cult. Sad, but very true.

Authoritarian Groups

Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s

8 Criteria for Thought Reform


Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication

both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a

significant degree of isolation from society at large.


Mystical Manipulation. There is manipulation of experiences that appear

spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders

in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special

gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and

experiences as he or she wishes.


Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are

constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for

perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used



Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal

monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,”

“attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.


Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate

Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the

group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise

above criticism.


Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new

ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of

thought-terminating clichés which serve to alter members’ thought processes to

conform to the group’s way of thinking.


Doctrine over Person. Member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the

sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit

the ideology of the group.


Dispensing of Existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the

right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in

the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be

converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of

the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world

loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or

she must be rejected also. (Lifton, 1989)



Posted in Of Interest, Truth from within.
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