When Jon Atack left Scientology in 1983, he little dreamed where his research would lead him. Cult expert Margaret Singer had already noted the similarities between the experiences of ‘brainwashed’ POWs, cult members and victims of domestic abuse – and that the same mechanisms kept the power dynamics in place – whether it was a single person being held in thrall, or thousands of devotees swearing eternal loyalty.
For the past three decades, Atack has painstakingly researched and studied the techniques, effects and camouflage of undue influence, and has worked to highlight it in all its many guises. Today his hard work comes to physical fruition with the print copy of his book, Opening Minds: the secret world of manipulation, undue influence and brainwashing, which was released this week in an extended edition. (The book is also available in electronic format; if you purchased the earlier edition, you can update it at the Kindle site.)
The updated edition comes with two entirely new chapters: one on undue influence within the framework of the family; the other, a look at the psychological makeup of those who, lacking empathy, often pull the strings of power and manipulate those around them.
Whether it comes in the form of a huckster using reciprocity to garner your credit information, a bullying boss using gaslighting to keep you off-balance, or a politician manipulating your emotions to sway your vote, undue influence is pervasive in our society, in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our news and entertainment networks, and, sadly, our governments.
For the first time in a single volume, Jon Atack shows us the wires and pulleys of social manipulation, gives us a historical overview of thought control, and, most importantly, gives us a few solid suggestions on how to lessen the impact of unethical persuasion not only in our own lives, but in the global community at large.
We at Open Minds hope that Jon’s book will be the starting point of a vital conversation across multiple disciplines and professions, as we learn how easily we can be controlled- and what we can do to make our decisions our own.
Have you read Jon’s book? What did you think? Do you have a book about undue influence you’d like to tell us about? We’d love to hear from you!