Content Reinvent Yourself - Labile Psychosocial Identity and the Lifestyle Marketplace  
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Hiram Caton

Published in Eibl-Eibesfeld, I. and F. K. Salter, eds. (1998). Indoctrinability, Ideology, and Warfare: Evolutionary Perspectives. New York: Berghahn Books. pp. 325-43.

Our premise—the flexibility of human nature—had already been turned to point to a social philosophy of cultural change.

Margaret Mead

You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is large enough.

Joseph E. Levine



  • Introduction
  • Imitative Learning and Internal Models
  • Self-Amplification and Group Identity
  • New Lives for Old: The Motivators
  • References

"Indoctrination" is strongly toned by negative affect because Cold War propaganda associated it with the suppression of freedom by totalitarian governments. The propaganda image, common to popular belief and academic studies, depicts indoctrination as a violation of the sanctity of the person, a soul-snatching technique that "dumbs down" individuals and masses to puppets on a string. The indoctrinated person is a victim of false consciousness, alienated to his or her own true "Inner." This view has also been extended to soul-snatching by religious cults.

The opposition propaganda reverses this image. Western Leftists claimed that this depiction is based on a small sample of prisoners of war and political refugees who were tortured and brutalized—in much the same way that police in capitalist countries terrorize their underclasses. But socialist countries did not and could not process hundreds of millions of workers through brainwashing camps. What the bourgeois stigmatized as brainwashing was the spontaneous enthusiasm of the masses for socialism and their solidarity with freedom fighters everywhere. The capitalist slander of socialism distracts attention from the relentless capitalist propaganda and indoctrination in the -schools, through the mass media and film, and through advertising. The entire system is wired to brainwash the public to obey bosses, to support capitalist oppression abroad, to keep the underclass powerless.

Now that the Cold War is over, these mock fights may be safely discarded. The prevailing Western concept is flawed in supposing that indoctrination is a new phenomenon deriving from totalitarian government. It is also flawed in not recognizing that indoctrination is nearly always perceived by the indoctrinated as a very positive thing. So positive, indeed, that status is often graded in proportion to thoroughness of indoctrination. This is because indoctrination into a common mind and character is the only means yet discovered to mold individuals into cohesive, coordinated groups capable of carrying out complex operations. It occurs in elite schools, in elite segments of the professions, in molding corporate culture, in trade unions, in pietistic religious communities, in elite military and police units, and so on.

If the belief that indoctrination is a recent development misrecognizes about three millennia of relevant evidence, it does reflect a heightened belief, from around 1900, among commercial and  governing elites in the manipulability of the masses, and the ambition of those elites to "improve" society. This ambition was not regime specific: the reformers of Margaret Mead's generation  were as committed to it as were fascists and socialists. The literature on Chinese and cult indoctrination, reviewed by Salter in this volume, is a valuable inventory of indoctrination techniques. But they are as old as the pyramids. And in these two cases, they are mere technique detached from productive life. Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution as a last-ditch effort to salvage his ebbing power from the grasp of party and army elites. In doing so he precipitated civil war, nearly destroyed the governing infrastructure, and set the economy back a decade. Today the Cultural Revolution and Mao's companions in evangelical vandalism are execrated in China. Cults are religious confidence games operated by men (mostly) whose egos crave adulation. In some cases, the narcissist syndrome may be implicated.

My claim that indoctrination is a positive thing refers in the first instance to the positive affect that the acquisition of a strong group identity has on people. It instills pride, energy, commitment, a sense of power and well-being, and operational competence. These rewards create a craving for indoctrination—the tougher, the better, since the capacity to endure hardship and pain are signs of strength. The value of these attributes to mission performance is confirmed by most organizational heads and by organization theorists. Their importance for the evolution of culture cannot be overestimated. Cold War thinking would have it that these traits are wholesome and admirable in ourselves and allies, but odious and fanatical in opponents.

Setting prejudices aside, there remains a serious obstacle to dispassionate study of indoctrination and propaganda. I mean the ineluctable impression of the childishness of it all. The beliefs and attitudes expressed are childish; the emotions approach the infantile; the rituals and games used to give indoctrination effect seem to come straight from the playground. These observations prompt patronizing and exploitative attitudes among practitioners. Thus, an architect of "consent engineering" (advertising), Edward Bernays, believed that the public forms its opinions on the basis of little information and that its reasoning is based wholly on association of images or suggestion (Combs and Nimmo 1993). Once formed, opinions and tastes are "logic-proof," Bernays believed. He advised politicians to substitute pseudoarguments for rational persuasion and to create pseudoevents to dramatize their objectives. "Democracy" is a phrase to lull the herd into believing in its power while the reality is the invisible manipulation of public life by elites. This line of thought could be illustrated indefinitely from observations by practitioners and scholars alike. Lies, hoax, fraud, puffery, twaddle, imposture, madness—these terms constantly recur in the literature. But this unending stream of pulp fiction really is what the public wants (Preston 1975; Schudson 1986). They like melodious babbling. It is soothing to hear "Coke: It's the real thing," and "You can trust your car to the man in the star."

There is a saying that to understand the child you must become as a child. One way to implement this advice is to relinquish the ivory tower and reflect on one's childish enthusiasms for sports operas, The Simpsons, and sentimental causes. Another way is to spend some hours playing with children and notice what you do. Unless you are a reluctant playmate, you will automatically dumb down to mimic the moods and thoughts of the kids.

Adults can communicate with children partly for the same reason that children and adults communicate with animals and -mals communicate across species. The common language is the nonsemantic signifiers of basic intentions, such as approach and avoidance, threat, nurture, play, and so on. Beyond that, the more relevant reason, for my purposes, is the elucidation by child development and animal behavior studies of the centrality of imitation to learning. Imitation is the learning process through which the infant acquires its sense of self; the learning process basic to child and adolescent cognitive development; and the primary learning process for the acquisition of roles and of group identity. These studies, which build on the investigations of Jean Piaget, are largely ethological in method and conceptual orientation (Parker, Mitchell and Boccia 1994). They help understand why indoctrination and propaganda achieve such effects as they do, while throwing light on the irrational elements of life.

The lability of the self's psychosocial identity derives from the fact that "self" is not a homogeneous medium but is relational, and in a double sense. First, the infant acquires the capacity to experience self only in relation to "alter." This is a fact of developmental history, but it is also a permanent fixture of all subsequent psychosocial organization. The reason is that ego recognizes self  thanks to social mirroring, that is, having one's behavior sent back to oneself (imitated) by alter (Meltzoff 1990; Gopnick and Meltzoff 1994; Watson 1994). One test of this thesis, relevant to mention in this context, is what happens psychosocially when self is deprived of alter, as in solitary confinement. The results are analogous to sensory deprivation—disorientation, hallucinations, and other disturbances known in the prison idiom as "stir crazy." No prison punishment is dreaded more than the ultimate—ostracism.

The second sense in which self is relational is in respect to itself. This relation is called "self-practice." Infants express it in automanipulations of the body and in imitating (mirroring) behaviors expressed by alter. These early behaviors lie in the developmental path to the acquisition of hand-eye coordination, acoustical-visual coordination, and ego-alter emotional and behavioral synchrony. The infants' self-practice develops into a "theory of mind." The theory includes an "internal working model" (IWM) by which it compares actual behavior with intended behavior, e.g., in learning to walk or to play automanipulation games with alter. The IWM operates a feedback loop enabling the infant to observe its own behavior, compare it with the IWM image of self, edit out the flaws, and replay to achieve the desired effect. Goals are for the most part presented by alter as actions that the infant is meant to imitate, e.g., saying bye-bye. Alter may wave her hand, or she may wave baby's hand to show what is wanted. Leaving aside discussion of age thresholds when the infant's cognitive capacities accelerate by leaps, the process is one in which the infant acquires competence to produce a desired effect by modeling in imagination the action to be performed, then rehearsing it (Donald et al. 1993; Freedman and Gorman 1993; Mehler and Dupoux 1994; Parker and Milbrath 1994). This is true of physical control as well as of social interaction. Here are the main points to be distilled from this analysis:

1. Imitative learning occurs through an iterated series of trials, or performed actions, whose goal is the competent performance of a model behavior. The goals and models are acquired by the infant-child through interactions with alter that call up the infant's native psychophysical potential. The spontaneous babbling that is a precursor to language acquisition is an illustration.

2. The activity of imitative learning is play. It is play in the sense of improvisation (trying oneself out to see what happens), in the sense of amusement (infants have a lively sense of humor), and in the sense of "just kidding" (feigning, shamming, hoaxing). Shamming mood states and social interactions is the self-practice that the infant and child rehearse in acquiring social competence. By that I mean the capacity to recognize alter 's nonverbal signals of mood state and to reproduce those signals for alter. By the age of three, the child has acquired dexterity in recognizing and producing these elements of communicative competence and is likely to delight in fast-moving Muppets theater. Adults also enjoy Muppets, even though the actors and the props are transparent frauds. The unreality actually enhances the fantasy game.

3. Hoaxing and self-hoaxing are indispensable to building the child's social competence (Groos 1899; Piaget 1951; Fagan 1984; Parker and Milbrath 1994; Watson 1994). Unlike communication between computers, human communication requires that interactants express their mood states. Thus, greeting exchanges are the ritual opening of communicative mood synchrony. To be socially competent, according to the studies I summarize, means to have the capacity to call up mood states, or signs of them, as occasion requires. (Autism, shock, and mental illness impair this capacity.) The child, in shamming a mood—to terrify alter, for example—is often captured by the sham and breaks the play by becoming really terrified. It may then be said that the child hoaxes itself.

4. The social play of children consists of uninhibited mingling  of mood and character imitation (shamming, let's pretend) and actually intended signals. This is why play is so volatile and often results in blows and tears. But children are learning behavioral scripts (characters and roles) whose performance and onset/offset come increasingly under their control. To put it another way, by learning to "role play," they are becoming proficient in mature lying. Children who are very adept in such games become actors, confidence artists, entertainers, moralists, politicians, writers, etc.

5. The child of ten years has memorized many behavioral scripts and can perform them tolerably well as occasion requires. Scripts standardize personal performance for defiance and submission, conscience and transgression, bullying and comforting, exaltation and sadness, reverence and blasphemy. Some of these scripts are detachable, generic roles that can be played in all seasons. Others are specific to personal and social identity.

6. The extensive shamming of games insinuates the standing awareness that identities can be faked. The child uses this competence to lie his or her way out of trouble. But awareness of "serious" psychosocial identity lability occurs during the developmental changes associated with puberty. Adolescents dis- cover stirrings not previously experienced. Sexuality becomes a vast mystery to be explored, anxiously or with passion. There is a growth spurt of physical prowess and associated feeling of power. Constellations of potential new social identities loom in peer bonding. Adolescents learn new social roles, become conscious of competition for status, and play evasion games with teachers and parents. Each has acquired many selves and an awareness of the potential for acquiring more.

Human delight in darting from one self to another leaves its mark everywhere. Consider the soccer tribe. They stream into the grounds wearing the team's colors and waving their banner. Some will don costumes and body decoration that mimics the club's totem. For several hours they go into a frenzy of cheering their side and execrating the opponents. For a moment, the contest is the most important thing in the world. Yet the childish hatred and tribal solidarity are entirely theatrical, that is, a self-hoax. The ritual is respectable so long as it's controlled and confined to the soccer grounds. But it is a rehearsal for war frenzy.

It is a fundamental property of culture that the expression of self through roles is enhanced by material signs, such as costumes, body decoration, civic architecture, tombs (Groos 1899; Piaget 1951). They serve both to define the many selves available in a culture and to enlarge the presence of an individual acting a particular role. Many animals are able to enlarge themselves for courtship, sexual competition, and defense. The piloerection of the domestic cat makes it appear twice its actual size. It is a bluff. Similarly, warrior costumes make men appear larger and more ferocious according to animal attributes designed into the costume. Donning the costume is a technique for pumping up the emotions to match the appearance (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1989). Again, it is a bluff, and it confers no advantage against opponents trained to disregard it.

Techniques for amplifying selves took a prodigious leap with the discovery of photography, radio, and high-speed printing (van Ginneken 1992; Stephenson 1967). Everyone could now be famous for five minutes. Technology created celebrity and public opinion and now, in the age of television and the Internet, has created what Kevin Kelly calls "the hive mind" and what I call "continuous universal imposture" (Kelly 1995). When the natural variation occurring in large populations is combined with a galaxy of representational technologies, there is no end to the variety of selves that may be mimicked, packaged, and marketed. Cosmetic surgery to mask aging, political transvestitism ("sexual equality"), the steroid-built body (to trump the transvestite imposture), telephone and cyberspace sex, and morphed extraterrestrials, all belong to this self-replicating set of virtual realities (Kelly 1995; Rushkoff 1994; Peters 1992). The "hive mind" is in a permanent state of continuously changing piloerections and puffery.

I will illustrate self-amplification by discussing the most highly publicized American political hoax of the 1970s, the abduction of media heiress Patty Hearst, then a nineteen-year-old student at the University of California. She was abducted from her apartment by three members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a self-styled revolutionary group. This squad of about eleven middle-class university students, influenced by the heroics of Latin American urban guerrillas, had dedicated themselves to saving the United States from fascism. Within days of her capture in February 1974, the first in a series of audiotapes was received by the media and by Patty's family. It declared the SLA's revolutionary intention and hinted that Patty was a hostage to be exchanged for two "brothers" held in San Quentin prison. In the next tape Patty assured her parents that she was safe and well. She told her father of the SLA's demand that he must supply every Californian on welfare with a week's groceries. This bizarre if colorful demand was met, at a cost of $2.4 million to Mr. Hearst, amidst much confusion. In subsequent tapes Hearst endorsed the SLA's social analysis and denounced her capitalist parents. Headlines called it "brainwashing." Not long after, she participated as an armed accomplice in bank robberies. She remained at large with two other members of the SLA for seventeen months. On her arrest, she was charged with federal offenses. The defense called psychiatric experts on brainwashing to argue in lengthy pretrial hearings for the charges to be dropped, on the grounds that she acted under duress and did not meet the legal definition of a reasonable person. The prosecution's experts testified to the opposite effect. Their point was that Hearst had not availed herself of many opportunities to flee her captors. Neither prosecution nor defense took any notice of the fact that Hearst and her companions in revolution were sky-high from the massive media coverage, which, by reflecting back to them their urban guerrilla identities, validated them. Hearst was tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. (Her sentence was commuted by President Carter in January  1979.) Meanwhile, the Los Angeles police located the SLA's "safe" house. When the rebels refused to surrender, about 120 local and federal lawmen poured thousands of rounds of small arms fire into the dwelling, killing all six occupants.

On its face, the SLA adventure is just another crime file. The group's potential for harm was no more than other criminal groups of comparable size. Yet the SLA launched itself out of the base-line average into celebrity orbit by adroit public relations.

Abductions are not especially newsworthy (they happen every day), but the abduction of an heiress grabs headlines because socialites weigh more in the public mind than ordinary mortals. The SLA turned a common felony into a propaganda bonanza by making it the launch platform for publicizing their revolutionary aims. That these aims were entirely sham was irrelevant. Here again a statistically average event is rescued from tedium by the SLA's publicity savvy. Self-styled revolutionary groups were at that time graffiti on the social map of crazies. The SLA agenda was indistinguishable from other liberation babbling. But the agenda attracted wide attention thanks to the media drama. The zany threat to overthrow the government acquired serious purport, even at the FBI, simply by becoming an endlessly repeated news item.

But the publicity moon shot was to transform the debutante Miss Patty Hearst into the militant "Tania." This activated the hive's anxiety about Communist soul-snatching. The initial evidence of her conversion, the tapes, was inconclusive. But nine weeks after the abduction, a bank security video photographed her as an armed accomplice in a robbery. The video did not indicate that she was guarded by other SLA members. "Tania" was Tania.

Hearst's conversion involved two transformations commonly associated with brainwashing: altered sociopolitical identity and altered psychosocial identity.

Rejecting capitalism meant switching loyalty to America's Cold War rival. To J. Edgar Hoover and middle America, such a thing has been treason since the first "Red Scare" (1917). Lawyers remonstrated that such attitudes, given force by government agencies or vigilantes, nullified constitutional guarantees of personal freedom. Despite or because of such sanctions, many Americans opted for one or another radical personae. The personal meaning of such an identity change varies with the actions it entails. In Hearst's case, the change appeared to be deep. She rejected friends and associations, and abandoned social and financial security for the risky life of bandit-heroes. It was this that so amazed the middle-America hive, whose weekly lottery tickets testify to its dreams of wealth and status. Patty had these, but threw them away for a life of crime and sleaze! Yet ostentatious dumbing down was then the moral fashion on campuses, especially at Berkeley. By adopting the manners, speech, and dress of the downtrodden, affluent youth symbolically defied aspirations imposed by their parents. Defiance signals anger, and anger needs reasons to argue. The stigma attached to the parent generation was hypocrisy (Rothchild and Wolf 1976). This is a "can't-lose" accusation since everyone over forty has made some morally serious compromises. In this case, the hypocrisy consisted of preaching social equality while practicing accumulation and ego gratification. This translated into a cluster of condemnations of the political system for having abandoned the American dream at home and for supporting fascist despotisms abroad.

Tania's persona included denunciation of her parents and their class values. Rejection of parents and the symbols of parental authority are hallmarks of indoctrination. Bolsheviks, Nazis, Maoists, and numerous cults have used it as a litmus for the transfer of loyalty to the indoctrinating group. The Unification Church, for example, requires acolytes to acknowledge Rev. and Mrs. Moon as their natural parents and moral preceptors; the ostensible natural parents are labeled as impostors sent by the Devil. While the child's repudiation is a grievous blow for parents, it is not a psychosocial marvel. The normal developmental path from adolescence to adulthood includes displacing parental authority by peer affiliation. The tumultuous teenager is a stock type, even in Asian cultures where familial loyalty is paramount. Thus, despite Japan's familial regimentation, identification with left-wing protest formed university sociopolitical identity in the postwar era. In America's urban slums, a high proportion of parents then and now lose control of their offspring to the street culture. To be sure, coming of age usually does not involve denouncing parents in the national media. Yet that ritual was fashionable at the time (in the rollicking phrase from Columbia University: "Up against the wall, motherf__ker!"). In Hearst's case, the bonding that mediated parental denunciation was infatuation with the SLA  bandit "Cujo" (Willi Wolfe, the son of a prominent liberal doctor). Patty eventually made up with her parents, as happens with ex-cult members.

Another feature of the SLA's modus operandi was the mixed sex group: half were women. The action groups of the Bolsheviks, IRA, and PLO were all male, because in those cultural groups violence is men's business. Mao's Cultural Revolution shock troops, by contrast, were mixed-sex teenagers; their job, however, was shaming, not shooting. The SLA drew its models from Latin American urban guerrillas, but they might just as well have borrowed from the mainstream symbol factory. In the 1960s, Hollywood invented the androgyne "Rambird." Her career commenced as the pretty pistol-packin' private eye or cop in television series and as the voluptuous man-eaters of James Bond films (Stephenson 1967). SLA women were out to prove themselves as men. To hang back from action was to betray the revolution. Although Patty's upbringing did not include tomboyism or martial arts, risking it with the comrades excited her.

Despite its rump size (about a dozen) and political isolation, the SLA hoaxed law enforcement agencies to take it seriously as a security threat. Three levels of agencies laid siege to the safe house with a quantum of force far beyond what was required to subdue a few unpracticed gunpersons. The cops played to the hilt the role assigned to them by the SLA's script. So did the SLA, for the bandits died the glorious death of revolutionary heroes.

The SLA drama illustrates how indoctrination works in bourgeois societies. The difference between the SLA's actions as private choices and public affairs was the media projection. Without that stage, the choices would have been private fantasy games of no public import. By jumping into the evening news, the SLA commandeered the hive's nervous system. The SLA's guerrilla theater expropriated prime time to market a hot cultural consumer item, the rebellious lifestyle. The abduction, food distribution, and success in defeating the police search for Patty achieved instant brand-name recognition for the SLA. They won some support in the street culture and in radical chic circles, but there was also strong criticism of their amateur tactics. The choice of hostage was a double stroke that placed law enforcement agencies in a supplicant posture while inflicting retributive justice on the exploiting class. Wealth is a token of prestige in market societies. The ransom (the $2.4 million food distribution) humiliated the exploiters while displaying the SLA's taste for serious money. Just as the hive cheers Robin Hood's daring exactions against the Sheriff of Nottingham, so the SLA wrote its script to attract applause for a gratifying transfer of wealth. The Robin Hood legend is a folk instruction about social identity (Knight 1994). It turns the tables on the Sheriff and the authority structure he represents by depicting the bandit as the hero. (In some versions of the legend, the bandit shoots the sheriff and inherits his job.) This was Patty Hearst's experience, as it was the experience of many youths of her generation hungry for an authentic lifestyle, that is, a life in which something was at stake (Hearst 1982). Her Robin Hood was Willie Wolfe, a Berkeley student of her social class who had been converted through his experience working among imprisoned blacks. She said that he was "the gentlest, most beautiful man I've ever known. He taught me the truth as he learned it from the beautiful brothers in California's concentration camps [i.e., prisons]. We loved each other so much, and his love for the people was so deep ... neither Cujo or I had ever loved an individual the way we loved each other ... probably because our relationship wasn't based on fucked-up bourgeois values, attitudes and goals"  (Bryan 1975, 126).  In telling her story, she acknowledges that the SLA caper was a "romantic dream," but a dream worth dreaming. On release from prison, she merged back into high society.

In ruling that Patty Hearst was responsible for her actions, the court applied standard legal tests for determining that an accused knowingly and freely willed the unlawful act. The tests have ancient roots in common law. They are also deeply embedded in Western cultural traditions, religious and secular, that construct personhood as capable of bearing attributes of impartiality, rational choice, dignity, and the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. That persona, known in common law as the "reasonable person" (formerly "reasonable man") is a legal artifact that tolerably approximates the personae of professional, ethical, vocational, and religious traditions. But the multiplication of selves in the era of continuous and universal imposture strains the concept. Indeed, judicial impartiality itself is under fire as an imposture of patriarchal or racist societies. Lawyers, for their part, undermine or magnify expert testimony as suits their needs, and scientific objectivity is said to be faked infallibility masking prestige competition and material interests. Judges, priests, and savants are perennial models of integrity of self. Today they are, culturally speaking, a bore, since they exclude the thrill of transgression and the excitement of possessing a wardrobe of selves to match each mood or aspiration (Rushkoff 1994). They are also dysfunctional in the nanosecond changes of the modern environment (Peters 1992). Whole industries are dedicated to manufacturing selves. I want to discuss one of them, the motivators.

Did you know that you need never again forget a name or a face? That you can break the bad habit that has withstood your New Year's resolutions? That nothing but procrastination stands between you and financial success? That poor self-esteem can be replaced by a positive, winning self-image? That you can acquire wealth to your heart's desire, and at the same time improve all those personal relationships so important in your life? That your potential personal power is unlimited? That all this can be yours effortlessly, right now?

If you did not know these things, you have not met the motivators, a new breed of faith healers. Their annual gross in the United States is $2-5 billion, depending on how you count. The faith they market is belief in your unlimited potential to succeed. At anything. Starting now.

The superstars of the success industry are the Forum Foundation, the Covey Leadership Center, Edward de Bono, Tony Robbins, M. Scott Peck. The founding fathers of the business are Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and Norman Vincent Peal (The Power of Positive Thinking). The influence of these two East Coast religious Brahmans is still visible in some industry sectors, particularly the Covey Center, but the presiding influence is the human potential movement. This movement emerged from therapeutic practice (EST and Esalen) in California in the 1950s, and was marketed to businesses as "sensitivity training" and "T-groups." The pitch to clients was that "team-building" would improve the bottom line by improving the organization's communication, cohesion, self-awareness, and sensitivity to humanistic values (Beer 1980; Milner 1988). Although the prestigious firms that contracted for these services could not often associate them with favorable movements in the bottom line, they nevertheless were part of the trend that slowly replaced the command structure of yesterday with the consensual structures of today.

The industrial T-group package was a toned-down version of the original T-group, which was offered in the therapeutic setting of psychiatric treatment and psychological counseling. In California, the home of humanistic psychology, psychological exotica of a kind never seen in Kansas flourished (Conway and Siegelman 1978; Ferguson 1982). The new psychologists agreed with Freud that hang-ups are expressions of unresolved inner conflicts, but they innovated in two crucial respects. They abandoned Freud's pessimism that ego structure could never be reconciled with the libido. They championed the opposite view that the ego flourished best when sexual desire was openly expressed. To this end, they espoused reform of traditional notions of marriage and family (abolition of the nuclear family was meant, though for practical reasons it was not always said). They also championed group therapy against private therapy. Group therapy mobilizes the psychological force of group esteem and censure and social mirroring of selves in the group as hammers to knock away socially acquired selves that block the full expression of potential. T-groups set up a collective demand (guided by the counselor) that all members of the group come clean with their repressed anger, anxieties, lusts, fantasies. These were confession sessions that became famous as orgies of love and hate (Plumb 1993). But I wish to stress the paradox of group therapy. The objective is to liberate the "True Inner" of each self from socially acquired helplessness (e.g., moral scruples). Yet this can be achieved only through social mirroring. The paradox is resolved in the present analysis by the observation that T-groups are indoctrination vehicles in which participants learn to substitute a set of selves acquired through socialization for another set endorsed by the group (Dawes 1994; Plumb 1993; Ferguson 1982). The unique individuals emerging from sensitivity training are remarkably alike in their tastes, values, and lifestyles. They express ideal personhood as conceived by humanistic psychologists. They are "open," "sensitive," "concerned," "unconventional," "deep." They also have a lifelong counseling dependency. But they do not regard the need to return to the group as a dependency. It is more like their church (Plumb 1993; Samways 1994).

The modus operandi of motivators varies. A few focus on loosening up thinking. Others cover wider territory but draw the line at sex. My investigation suggests, however, that motivation seminars (usually of about two days' duration) are formatted to the basic T-group structure devised by Kurt Lewin (Lewin 1952). It is the "Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze" sequence. Unfreezing thaws aspects of the public persona shared by most people. For example, it is taboo for a stranger to touch, and touch intimately, another, especially in a public gathering. But motivators easily induce this behavior by giving the group limbering up exercises, which includes massaging the shoulders, then the waist, of the person next to them. The Move phase instills the new self-image of unlimited power. The highlight of this phase is "miracles and special effects" (MSE), which are a sort of audience-participation magic show. Miracles in vogue are fire walking, walking on glass, feats of memory, feats of strength performed under hypnosis, banishing fears and phobias, breaking habits, telling off the boss. This phase is highly emotional. It happens thus. The motivator first constructs a group consensus around a group mind. This is easily done. They make themselves into cheerleaders for the success ideal. This commonly expressed achievement goal now becomes a norm for group behavior. Then each individual is put in the "hot seat." They are required to declare before the group what their personal desires are and why they think that they are not achieving them. This personal information is adroitly steered into a confession extracted by the force of group expectation (implicit norm: you can't let down your mates). The scene swings wildly between hilarity and tears. Failure is not permitted (Dawes 1994). Anyone who falls from the ladder has his or her dignity rehabilitated.

The Refreeze segment confirms the new self of unlimited power. This is where the motivator moves into action with his or her scam. If motivators really were the success messiahs that they claim to be, most of those who exit from the seminar would soon be millionaires, not to mention the gratifying weight loss they would achieve. This promise is prominent in promotional material. But if this were true, word of mouth advertising would long since have stampeded hundreds of millions to the seminars. Motivators must instead leave their clients with a surrogate for success that they can clutch like a rosary in the absence of significant change in their personal lives. This surrogate is belief in the unlimited power of the motivator and the groups he or she creates. The psychology is about the same as for secret societies and elite cadres. I call it the belief in "Elect Presence." Secret societies believe that they are the operational unit in the divine plan for humanity. You can't get much more powerful than that. Acceptance of this belief imbues life with meaning and purpose. Instead of the divine plan, motivators talk of the "energy field" or the "new consciousness" in which clients now are oriented. The motivator asks them if they wish to be among the select few in whom unlimited power for good has been unleashed. That power changes their lives, and each going their separate ways will contribute to making the world a better place (Plumb 1993; Ferguson 1982; Hassan 1988). It's an offer one can't refuse, especially when everyone else enthusiastically grasps it. Some motivators reinforce the salvation message by giving each person a secret code, like a personal mantra, that identifies him or her in the army of rising consciousness. All this is credible because the intense, novel emotions of the seminar, collectively experienced, together with the MSE, have made an ineffaceable impression. Something powerful has reached into their lives (comparable to falling in love) and it requires a suitably lofty interpretation. The logic of the teaching leads ineluctably to the conclusion that the motivator is the messiah.

In the absence of controlled studies, there is no way of telling whether personal development courses are a net benefit to clients. The testimonials that motivators splash across full-page ads are the last word in puffery. Here are a few.

It's hard to put into words how enthusiastic we feel about David Ryan's course. It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives ... we were filled with vitality and enriched with ideas beyond measure with the techniques David taught us.

Totally awesome!—much more than I ever expected. I came with enthusiasm to learn more. I left with such a high I can't find words to describe the feeling. Unlimited destiny is what I now have the power to bring into my life.

I am elated ... information has become knowledge, procrastination has yielded to action, fear to courage, lethargy to energy, frustration to enthusiasm, confusion to clarity.

Parading childlike enthusiasm is a standard promo gimmick. Toyota ads feature the jump for joy and the hymned slogan "Oh, what a feeling!" Creative people in advertising explain it by saying that emotions are infectious. The ethological model of communication substitutes for "infection" the concept of mood synchrony. You cannot communicate with the child without provisionally adopting its mood. On the other hand, the adult can gain control of mood by drawing the child into an activity that captures its attention. This the Toyota ad does. David Ryan's testimonials faithfully reflect his success in imparting enthusiasm to clients. The mood becomes self-sustaining when 150 people gush about David Ryan's wisdom. It's like the soccer ground.

Growing up involves developing emotional control. The inner journey launched by motivators—to get in touch with yourself, to change the programming of the unconscious—is a regression to childhood emotional lability and to spontaneity of feeling. It can be deeply satisfying to expose private thoughts, to weep and rejoice openly and in synchrony with others. Theater achieves this catharsis by a controlled, feigned exhibition of deeply felt emotions. In motivation seminars, however, clients become actors in a therapeutic vehicle that humanistic psychology calls "psychodrama." At the end of the drama they are elated, ecstatic, on a high. Elevated mood states are not an auspicious climate for making important decisions, since absorption in a rapturous vision depresses the discursive examination of facts relevant to the decision. Motivators encourage decision-making in a state of rapture (they call it "being clear"!) because they fuse the success goal with bold self-change and a permanent high. This linkage is the psychology of innumerable ads. Buy a Toyota and Oh, what a feeling.

In the absence of a controlled study, the results of decision-making under the influence of rapture is known only anecdotally. Here is a typical, bad outcome.

A successful executive programs himself for the instruction to be "clear" about his objectives and consistent in carrying them out. The emotional upheaval of his session in the "hot seat" made it "clear" to him that he is being "held back" by his wife. Accepting the logic of "clarity," he premptorily tells her after the seminar that he will file for divorce. She is incredulous, but he shatters her affection with personal abuse. At work he decides that from now on he will act like an executive. He does some plain talking to the CEO and fellow vice presidents. Within weeks the boss terminates his employment. He interprets the failure as a sign that the "cosmic energy" (the IWM of the motivator) wants him to start his own business. He pours his savings into a venture that fails within six months. The family is destitute. He scratches together the money to attend another motivation seminar (Samways 1994).

A comparison between motivator and cult indoctrination psychology would reveal many similarities. One is the Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze indoctrination template. Another is the conviction of Elect Presence. Steven Hassan, who became a cult "deprogrammer" after his exit from the Unification Church, said that his decision to commit to the "Moonies" occurred under the influence of the "incredible elation" of feeling that he had been chosen by God. "I thought my every action had monumental historical significance" (Hassan 1988, 22).

The persona that chose Hassan was the IWM of alter that the Moonies skillfully install in recruits. There is no doubt that the IWM of alter can do the sort of thing that Hassan experienced. Motivators, by contrast, come from the opposite side of the structure of consciousness. They manipulate ego's IWM of the aspirational self. In consumer societies this IWM is strongly formed by the ubiquitous advertising for products and services that help you become whatever self you choose to be (Peters 1992; Schudson 1986; Wolf 1991). Without this toad-to-prince fairy tale, motivators' potential client pool would be rather smaller than it is. Motivators promote the belief that they are the fairy whose magic wand will effect this transformation. The wand is the belief that life outcomes are determined by motivation and associated mind control. Talent, chance, health states, and so on are not independent of the will. The irony is that the IVVM conscience installed in clients' minds during seminars is the imago of the motivator. Whether they succeed or not, they need to come back to him. The "unlimited power" they acquire is dependency on the motivator-therapist

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