Coercion & Coercive Control:
Glossary of key terms



Enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.

Coercive Control

An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim.

Cognitive Dissonance

The extremely uncomfortable feeling that occurs when a person’s strong core beliefs are questioned by someone who presents evidence that contradicts those beliefs. Unable to accept the evidence, the person will then seek to rationalize, ignore or even deny the evidence as it does not fit their core belief.

Intelligent Disobedience

Doing right when what you’re told to do is wrong.


Robert Jay Lifton developed these criteria to identify the actions of coercive groups using manipulative techniques to gain total control over a person. His list can be used to measure the level of coercion in groups, relationships, families, and even in whole countries.


Refers to a person’s sense of self-determination, being able to make choices regarding the direction of her/his own actions, including the freedom to pursue those choices, and it requires the absence of restraining forces that can limit this natural tendency.

Black-and-White Thinking

One of the tools of coercion, admonishing victims to see the world in terms of extremes with no middle ground. It is right or wrong, good or evil. In the early development of a child we tend to use black-and white thinking until their minds develop the ability to wisely handle choices. But in times of stress, people often revert to their child-like thinking, leaving them exposed to skilled manipulators. It also explains why mature adults, who are under lots of stress, will be more susceptible to the hooks presented by coercive groups.

Confirmation Bias

Tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or strengthens one’s prior personal beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias

Logical Fallacies

An error/flaw in reasoning that renders an argument invalid; an argument in which a conclusion doesn’t follow logically from what preceded it.

Three useful logical fallacies:

  1. Ad hominem: An argument where a person is attacked and not the content of their point of view;
  2. Strawman: Misrepresenting someone’s argument and then attacking the distorted argument;
  3. Slippery slope: A slippery slope argument is when someone asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect.


Undue influence is the recognized legal term for influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences.

    A-Z of Coercion

    Complete list of everything you need to know about Coercion