Humanistic Approaches to Positive Growth and Self-Acceptance

Cult Phenomenon – Group Think

CULT MENTALITY – What is a CULT?group think

A cult is defined as a small religious or non-religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion or societal norms. The Cult has beliefs regarded by society as abnormal or regarded by many as extreme or dangerous.

What cults have you heard of?

How is a cult different from a religion?

How is a cult different from a sect?

Since 1970s, has taken on derogatory meaning…cults engaging in extreme or dangerous behavior has gotten publicity.  How do we know when a cult is a dangerous cult?

The Charismatic Leader

  • Central authority in a single, charismatic leader – Viewed as a prophet, messenger – Not easily challenged
    Adoration often directed to leader rather than outside force – Cult often lives and dies by the leader
    Members willing to die or kill themselves if the leader says its necessary
  • Strict control over lives of members – Dress, marriage, reproduction, jobs, possessions
  • Separation from Outside Contacts – Including family and friends – Part of control – limits opportunities for intervention, criticism – Within cult, families sometimes separated
  • Polarized Worldview – Only the cult knows the right way to live and be – Life outside the cult is dangerous, corrupt – “Us vs. Them” – Living in Isolation – Communes, colonies – Often in remote places – Members do not come and go freely
  • Large Donations from Members, Small Group Size – Small size easier to control – Good standing dependent on donations – May be required to give up material wealth

Conformity to the Group

  • The group is number one, individual is always second to the group –
  • Independent thought suppressed, punished
  • Thought to your own wants, needs seen as sinful – GROUP THINK
  • Punishment for Criticism or Defection – Dire warnings against criticizing group even in small ways
  • Supernatural threats, threats of excommunication

Hassan developed the BITE acronym, which describes the components employed by destructive cults using mind control. BITE covers the following areas of control:

  • Behavior Control: An individual’s associations, living arrangements, food, clothing, sleeping habits, finances, etc., are strictly controlled.
  • Information Control: Cult leaders deliberately withhold or distort information, lie, propagandize, and limit access to other sources of information.
  • Thought Control: Cult leaders use loaded words and language, discourage critical thinking, bar any speech critical of cult leaders or policies, and teach an “us vs. them” doctrine.
  • Emotional Control: Leaders manipulate their followers via fear (including the fear of losing salvation, fear of shunning, etc.), guilt, and indoctrination.



Aronson, E., (2012) The Social Animal (11th ed). New York : Worth Publishers
Myers, D, Exploring Social Psychology, (7th ed). McGraw Hill.


15 thoughts on “Cult Phenomenon – Group Think

  1. Read and understood. This article remind me of Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. When I think of cults, I think of social influence, peer pressure,conformity, authority, false prophets, extreme belief system, etc.


  2. read and understood. Cults are aimed at people who are mentally weak, who need a savior so to speak. People easily conform, when you tell them what they want to hear. Persuasion at its finest. David Koresh, Charles Manson, and Scientology are some examples that I can think of.


  3. Read and understood. Cults are often frowned upon in today’s society, as the conditions are too extreme and not accepted by society.


  4. Interesting video, explains that basically we react to peer pressure whether it is done publicly or privately, we still conform to others beliefs until we figure out if what they say or do is appropriate for us to continue doing.


  5. Read and somewhat understood. I find this very interesting! I have watched various movies/ documentaries about the Manson Family.


  6. This is the combined results of conformity with obedience without those two mechanisms a cult leader like myself !!!!! wouldnt have any followers 🙂


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