Intense Indoctrination: Definition, Stages, and Causes

What is Intense Indoctrination?

Intense indoctrination is a process through which individuals become members of extreme groups and come to accept the beliefs and rules of the group in a totally unquestioning and highly committed way.

For example, a mass suicide occurred in People’s Temple with its 914 members when ordered to do so by their leader in 1978. This dreadful event caught the attention of the general public on extreme religious groups. Baron (2000) suggests that such instructions involve four different stages. Several psychological factors seem to play important roles in these processes.

Stages in Intense Indoctrination

Softening Up Stage

In the softening upstage, new members are made unreachable to their former lives. This is the state of vagueness, tiredness, uncertainty, disorientation, and confusion. It is time to receive the group messages. The main goal here is to cut off new recruits from the outside the social world.

Compliance Stage

During the compliance stage, recruits are asked to actively involve themselves in the belief and demands of the role as the member.

Internalization Stage

The recruits begin to agree the views of the group as accurate and in reality accept as true.

Consolidation Stage

This the merging stage where recruit adds strength to make their membership by engaging in costly acts that make it difficult to go back to the original life. They offer all their private assets to the group and discontinue all ties with past friends and family. The result is that the new members now accept the beliefs and philosophy of the group in an unquestioning manner and hold negative views about outsiders.

Causes of Intense Indoctrination

There are a number of psycho-social processes involved that explain the causes that lie behind intense indoctrination.

Decreased Attentional Capacity: The cognitive capacity of the individual seems reduced because the extreme groups use various tactics to mold them so that they can not think carefully, systematically, or cognitively. Reduced attention capacity increases the tendency of new recruits to think stereotypically.

By Keeping New Recruits Fatigued: The new members were put in a deprivation of food, family, sleep, and so on which make them emotionally aroused and isolated. When people are confused, uncertain about how to act, and are experiencing reduced confidence their tendency to conform, is often enhanced.

Inducing the recruits to make public statements: Recruits are subjected to make public statements, using intense peer pressure supporting groups views. These are applied to potential members and are compelled continually over time until recruits reach a position where they accept the group’s views in a totally unquestioning manner.

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