Mind Control Techniques
In Cult Recruiting

For ex-members of cults, understanding the mind control techniques used to recruit them and keep them in the group is an important part of their recuperation.

Remember people do not deliberately join cults. They are recruited!


It takes time

The recruitment process is exactly that, a process, new members are recruited step-by-step. Cult membership has been likened to a marriage, with the initial seduction, increasing commitment, falling in love, and fully committing.

Here we have a look at the recruitment process and the mind control techniques used to deceive and trick members into joining the group.


Have you been tricked?

Explain how the particular technique was used against you to help others to learn. Click here


Choosing who...

The first thing to consider are the potential members. Cults do not want mentally ill people, drug addicts, troublemakers etc.

They want intelligent, articulate, healthy workers who can get stuff done. Some groups want young people, some groups want families and other groups target the elderly - 'the gold is with the old', they target old people for their money.

There is no particular 'personality' that is susceptible to mind control techniques. However there are certain characteristics that make people more vulnerable. For example, people who are dependent, unassertive or have a low tolerance for ambiguity (they don't like to feel uncertain, they want answers and the sooner the better). People who are idealistic or have a strong desire for spiritual meaning are also somewhat susceptible. An impaired ability to criticize what one is told or hears also puts a person at a disadvantage.

Most people will find, on reflection, that there have been times in their lives when they have experienced several or all of these things themselves. This means that everyone is susceptible to being recruited into a cult, if they happen to meet a cult member at the wrong time - a time when they are vulnerable and the cult member is offering exactly what they want!!

A very important point that makes people incredibly susceptible is an ignorance of how mind control works and the fact that cults use mind control techniques to recruit…

The belief that 'it would never happen to me!' compounds the problem…

Large cults even have training manuals which teach the members what kind of people to recruit. For example, a cult may want 'pay-as-you-go' members, i.e., people who are earning money and can afford to pay for courses (there may be a series of courses which get more and more expensive).

The manual will them explain how and where to find recruits, how to assess the recruits, and based on the assessment what story to tell them to attract them to a course.


First contact

Cults recruit in ads in magazines and newspapers, public exhibitions, trade fairs, universities, night classes, sports clubs, hairdressers, and the list goes on.

About 60% of ex-members say they were actually recruited by a family member or friend!



Let's consider the interaction between a cult member and a potential recruit and the mind control techniques that are used.

The first thing the cult member will want to do is gather information about the potential new member. This information is used in two ways. First, the member can pretend to have similar interests and values to pretend to be like the potential member. This is a very powerful way to create an intimate bond. You can read more about how psychopaths (most cult leaders are psychopaths) rapidly create powerful relationships here.

Secondly, the cult member uses the information to make the potential new member an offer they cannot refuse. The offer may be an invitation to coffee, dinner, a free talk, a seminar and so on. The topic, of course, would be exactly what the new recruit is looking for…

Deception and lies are present from the word go in the recruitment process and are designed to influence decision making.

The relationship itself is false, it is manufactured. The talk or seminar may actually be only vaguely related to what the recruiter is offering, and the potential new member is deceived into coming along because they like the person making the invite.

It's appropriate to mention Robert Cialdini's weapons of influence here. These are unconscious psychological motivators that we use as shortcuts in our day-to-day living, such things as reciprocity, liking, commitment and consistency, and scarcity. Cialdini says that these things allow our society to function well, but can be used to manipulate and control people.

For example, in our situation above, the recruiter is making a friend of the potential member. We allow ourselves to be influenced by friends and people we like. So the potential member is already at a disadvantage. They don't understand how mind control works and they like the person they're talking to.

We all like to be seen to be consistent. So if the potential member has said they are very interested in politics, it's very difficult to turn down an invitation to a free talk on the current political situation. Or if they have admitted that they are struggling financially, it does not make sense to not want to go to a free seminar on how to make more money in your spare time.

If we add to this the fact that the recruiter has done the potential new member a favor, e.g., paid for coffee or lunch, (reciprocity is the idea that if I do you a favor you will feel obliged to do me a favor in return), the odds are stacking up for the recruiter!

And then the recruiter mentions that this is a one-off seminar, with a big discount for people who sign up now, the scarcity pushes the potential new recruit into deciding to make a commitment.

But again we have deception. The new recruit believes that are going to a seminar on politics or making money or whatever, but they're actually joining a cult where eventually all their attention will focus on being liked by the group and the leader, on pleasing the leader and ignoring their own wants and needs because the needs and wants of the leader are much more important.


Double ethics

This is the double agenda of cults. There is a facade or a mask presented to the general public while what actually goes on in the group is something totally different.

People may join groups thinking that they're going to get communication skills, spiritual teachings, relief from stress, a money making job and the solutions to their problems.

They would never join if they knew that they would end up working long hours for nothing, drug dealing, selling flowers on the street with the money going to the leader, prostituting themselves, giving all their wealth to the group and other such things. The new recruits don't learn the full story until much later - one of the expected control techniques used in destructive sects.

Another form of deception is front groups for various large cults. There may be a small political society in a university, for example, which is channeling members into a larger religious cult. Or a yoga group in a small town where members are recruited into an international destructive sect. People join the front group expecting one thing, whereas the hidden agenda of the group is cult recruitment.


Smooth talkers

Many people believe that cults use harassment and arguments to pressure people into joining. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mind control techniques used by cults nowadays have evolved and frequently soft talk, charm and appealing topics are used to flatter, entice and even seduce people into making commitments.

But the combination of mind control techniques means that the seduction can cause bonds and commitments that are even more powerful than normal relationships.

Ok, so let's say the person agrees to go to a weekend course. Let's discuss the mind control techniques they can expect to encounter…


Personal experiences of mind control techniques

Here's your chance to write and express what happened to you. To get it off your chest! Let the world know that there are unscrupulous and evil people around, and explain how they manipulate others.

Much of the defense against mind control is understanding how it works. Use your experience to educate and help others!

Your entry can be totally anonymous. We know this can be very important! And lastly, all submissions and comments are screened before publication to make it safe for people to write without fear of 'retaliation'. Read some important considerations

Read other peoples experiences

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