Monday, September 04, 2006

"Extreme Psychology"

See the article Extreme Psychology, from Psychology Today, which has some interesting observations:
In 1996, [Susan Clancy] had begun work with women who had repressed and "recovered" vivid memories of sexual abuse, applying well-known tests designed to show if some were more prone to re-create memories. She tested subjects and control groups who said they were either never sexually abused or had never forgotten their abuse. All were asked to study, memorize and then recite back a list of semantically related words, such as those having to do with the word sweet. On the list were candy, sugar, cookie and brownie, for example, but never actually the word sweet.

Everybody had a tendency to think that the "nonpresent critical word"—sweet—was on the list. "But the women who claimed to have recovered memories of sex abuse were significantly more likely than the control groups to be very, very confident that the critical word sweet was on that list," Clancy found. "The bottom line is that they created a false memory and not only believed it, but were very confident in their belief." The research set off a firestorm. "All I said was that if women were more prone to create false memories in the lab, it was also a possibility they had outside the lab, too. I was accused of protecting pedophiles."
So-called "recovered memory therapy" is scientifically suspect, but naturally is loved by trial lawyers. A plaintiff can claim anything, without any proof whatsoever, and sway the jury by their confidence.

The same article talks about techniques used by cults to recruit members:
His own experience and careful observation have taught him that people don't join cults, they are targeted and seduced by well-trained political, religious or other opportunists who know exactly on whom to prey—smart, well-educated youth who have a hard time getting themselves out of stressful, disappointing or depressing situations. They fall victim to those who take them back to the feelings they had as children, when their needs were met by all-knowing adults.

"The recruiters spend time with you, comfort you, take the time to get to know a lot about you even before a face-to-face meeting. You feel wanted, desirable, chosen, special, useful and, most of all, safe.
This is generally called "love bombing"; a programmed method to make potential recruits feel loved and wanted. In the years following the Second Vatican Council, and especially during the Pontificate of John Paul II, there was a strong emphasis on new lay "movements" within the Church. Encouraged to abandon tradition and to be creative, some of these new movements started using these cultish techniques to get new members. Pope Benedict has done some work to correct this.

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