A "highly readable and compelling" account (Science) of brainwashing’s pervasive role in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
“Riveting. . . . Dimsdale . . . shows how the art of dark persuasion a generation ago led almost inevitably to today’s misinformation, cyberbullying and cultlike behavior on the Internet.”—Dina Temple-Raston, Washington Post
This gripping book traces the evolution of brainwashing from its beginnings in torture and religious conversion into the age of neuroscience and social media. When Pavlov introduced scientific approaches, his research was enthusiastically supported by Lenin and Stalin, setting the stage for major breakthroughs in tools for social, political, and religious control.
Tracing these developments through many of the past century’s major conflagrations, Dimsdale narrates how when World War II erupted, governments secretly raced to develop drugs for interrogation. 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. Cults used the techniques as well. Nobel laureates, university academics, intelligence operatives, criminals, and clerics all populate this shattering and dark story—one that hasn’t yet ended.
Joel E. Dimsdale is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego. He consults widely to government agencies and is the author of numerous other works, including Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals. He lives in San Diego, CA.
“Riveting. . . . Dimsdale takes readers through it all, animating the journey with a clear, energetic writing style that shows how the art of dark persuasion a generation ago led almost inevitably to today’s misinformation, cyberbullying and cultlike behavior on the Internet.”—Dina Temple-Raston, Washington Post
“Teeming with intriguing tales of mental manipulation, including accounts of the Jim Jones cult, Patty Hearst’s post-kidnap transformation and the whole thorny subject of Stockholm Syndrome.”—Martin Chilton, The Independent
“Joel E. Dimsdale describes the refinement of thought-manipulation over the past century, as rival ideologies competed for control of the mind.”—Peter Pomerantsev, Spectator
“A brilliant, highly readable account.”—Charles Foster, Fortean Times
Shortlisted for the 2022 William James Award, sponsored by the APA
“In an age with deep concern that we are being manipulated by artificial intelligence and algorithms, this is an important topic and a timely, well-written book. The question of how large groups of seemingly reasonable people come to hold obviously unreasonable beliefs is one of the deepest questions of our age.”—Tanya Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back
“This book is a fascinating account of coercive persuasion from Pavlov to today's mass believers in conspiracy. Dimsdale’s sobering account makes the reader wonder if what anti-vaxxers, Big Lie believers, and victims of brainwashing techniques have in common is the story told in this book about the socialization of cognition and emotion. Provocative and eye-opening.”—Arthur Kleinman, author of The Soul of Care
“A book for our times—timely, compelling, provocative, smart, and ultimately hopeful, in offering a means to our own protection from the forces of darkness.”—Philippe Sands, author of East West Street
“A remarkable history of the historical background to brainwashing in the twentieth century. This book should be read by anyone interested in how people can believe in something dramatically different from their own observations.”—Thomas Wise, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
“Captivating. Illuminating. Frightening. Secrets revealed and myths debunked on the past century’s practices of brainwashing told from the perspective of an experienced psychiatrist and a gifted narrator. A journey never to be forgotten.”—Stephen M. Stahl, Neuroscience Education Institute
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.