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Brainwashing: The science of thought control Hardcover – 25 Nov 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (25 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804969
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.8 x 15.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 402,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Quite a fascinating book whose content tends to linger long after you have put it down. Definitely a must-read for those in the social psychology field and all other psychologists interested in this area. (Doody's Journal)

About the Author

Kathleen Taylor is a research scientist in the physiology department, Oxford University. In 2003 she won first prize in both the THES/OUP Science Essay competition and the THES Humanities and Social Sciences Writing Prize.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after reading a recommendation of it in Focus magazine and am very glad I did.

Kathleen Taylor does a very good job of defining her subject. It's certainly not necessary to have a degree in psychology to understand or appreciate the book although some sections do get fairly technical because there's just no simple way to get the complex ideas across.

Taylor does a great job of highlighting the alarming number of ways in which people seem to be open to brainwashing through various case studies ranging from American personnel captured in Korea to the Manson family and the atrocities they committed.

The book is such a great read because it deals with something that we've probably all been subjected to at some point - hopefully not full blown brainwashing but `influence attempts.' You can't avoid them and this book will hopefully educate you so you are more aware of insidious attempts to control your behaviour. This all sounds very alarmist but one of the main themes of the book is to make us more aware of these attempts so we don't fall for them without questioning. Fortunately for most of us reading in the western world most influence attempts are contained in adverts but obviously politics plays a large role in our lives and the book highlights ways in which political parties attempt to manipulate the populace.

Taylor takes us through the mechanics of the attempts, showing how the people making the attempts at control can subvert our defences and begin to exert more control over us than they really should and she also goes on to explain how, from a psychological viewpoint these attempts achieve success. Very interesting stuff and also very sobering.
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Format: Paperback
Not so much a 'how to ...' guide to brainwashing, as a 'how to avoid being brainwashed', Taylor's 15 chapter volume is a timely addition to the bookshelf. Presented as being as much a social, as a political method of persuasion, the author puts forward the topic of brainwashing as covering a wide spectrum of human activity, from the overt, deliberate and forceful breakdown in torture chambers, to the more subtle expressions of emotional blackmail from family members and loved ones. Perhaps lacking, however, was any in-depth discussion of the effects of various public media, product marketing strategies and corporate advertising, which are also geared toward the "alteration of a second person's thoughts and feelings". A further welcome addition, would have been some discussion of the value of brainwashing reversal, and torture victim rehabilitation, beyond that illustrated by Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange'. Taylor's examples of successful brainwashing cover both fictional (e.g., '1984' and 'The Manchurian Candidate') as well as non-fictional scenarios (incl. The Manson Family and the Jonestown Massacre) by way of introduction, but there is little new for the hardened conspiracy theorist to take away from these chapters.

In an attempt to explain the formation, development and cohesion of cult groups, and in particular their members willingness to perform anti-social and illegal acts, Taylor reviews a number of putative mechanisms underlying such conformative behavior, much of which will be familiar territory to both social and cognitive psychologists. But more importantly, the better value of this book may be revealed in its attempts to discuss the underlying neural mechanisms that are involved in the "business of changing people's minds".
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Brainwashing' is a fascinating and stimulating book exploring the many facets of Brainwashing. It looks at it's history, some methods, coercion in the media and education, the physical attributes of the brain that lend itself to coercion and persuasion, as well as methods to protect yourself from the various influences of Brainwashing you may experience. It is written in an engaging and captivating way and the ideas outlined will stimulate your mind to think in new or different ways. Kathleen Taylor's writing style is very eloquent and easy to read and she makes quite complex ideas extremely accessible. One minor quibble is that the text format is quite small and is therefore hard going on the eyes. It could quite easily of been a larger font. The notes are also very good, but some information could have been added to the main text to good effect. Overall it is an in depth and fascinating book and one that is well worth the effort to read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When you come across a book with the title "Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control", you expect to open its pages and come across a mixture of conspiracy theory and egotistical mentalism. In fact, this is a book which is probably as far from its perceived title as can possibly be, and arguably for good reason, as the author explains.

The thrust of the author's argument is that the stereotypical notion of brainwashing as thought of by most people who use the term is fundamentally flawed. Specifically, we go looking for zombies and "Yes Master" style Hollywood stories, when in fact such notions belong firmly to the world of fiction rather than fact. This is not surprising when you think about it rationally for a few minutes. Instead, the author explores the much deeper areas behind the notion of brainwashing, and in doing so expands into areas that the reader probably hasn't considered before.

The book is split into three themes of sorts. First, a casual look at the historical uses of brainwashing is covered. The author is keen to point out that the word and concept of what we think of as brainwashing is a relatively new concept, yet the purpose behind (to convert a person from one belief system to another) is far from new at all. Torture has been used throughout the ages to attempt to force people to accept new truths, and as you read on you see how relatively haphazard the results have been.

Secondly, the author delves into the relatively advanced world of neuroscience. Taking an extremely objective and biological consideration of the brain as a reductionist computer, we look at how the brain itself is wired and works. This may seem an overtly complex tangent initially, but is key to the author's argument that simplistic notions of mind-control are pipe dreams.
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