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Posted March 27, 2005
Will strongly influence your ideas on brainwashing
Beginning with the stories of brainwashed American soldiers in the Korean War and ending with positive suggestions on how to avoid brainwashing, the author of this book takes the reader through a fascinating and very informative overview of the subject. Avoiding long-winded philosophical musings on free will and determinism, she instead supports her case on the reality of brainwashing with what is known about the human brain via research in neuroscience. The book is rich in information and gives the reader an understanding of to what degree the human mind can be controlled and manipulated. The author gives several examples of mental manipulation, all of these being quite frightening scenarios. Through her discussion of neuroscience, the author dispels any notion of the Cartesian `diamond minds¿ metaphor that has plagued Western thought for the last four centuries. Indeed, if the claims of contemporary research in cognitive neuroscience are correct, then the human brain is indeed a very dynamic object, sometimes undergoing radical change. As an example of this, the author quotes the `phantom limb¿ scenario. Altering personal identity however is impossible if the proponents of the diamond mind are correct. The author again though gives evidence to the contrary, this evidence coming from what is known about the brain. In the process of doing this, she gives an interesting introduction to what she calls the `schematic self¿. This concept is motivated by the fact that human beings seem to take on a variety of different `identities¿ depending on the social situation in which they find themselves. These roles or `schemas¿ include a collection of behaviors, and the thoughts, attitudes, and emotions that accompany them. These schemas can contain beliefs that are incompatible however, especially if they are correlated with different situations that individuals find themselves in. This incompatibility helps to explain the somewhat perplexing or contradictory behavior that is observed in many people. There is a temptation to label an individual as a `hypocrite¿ when having observed him acting in one situation, he behaves totally different in another, this behavior being seemingly at odds with the behavior in the first situation. Therefore, the author concludes, it should not surprising that brainwashing can work, given this capacity for variation in the `self.¿ Readers interested solely in scientific explanations will of course demand that the author justify this schema theory with evidence from neuroscience. She does so, and concludes that the schemas are patterns of connections between neurons, and that the stronger the connections, the more automatically the schemas will be triggered under the activation by certain stimuli. Some of these stimuli might be subtle, such as those arising from advertising. These might strengthen the ¿weak¿ schema, but the individual does not experience it as a change in self. However, stimuli resulting from the use of force act to change the strong schemas. Brainwashing by force thus may radically change the individual¿s strongest beliefs, and the author again gives evidence from neuroscience that supports the assertion that this can indeed happen.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.