9 Mar 2017
Throughout history, humans have attempted to influence and control the thoughts of others. Since the word 'brainwashing' was coined in the aftermath of the Korean War, it has become part of the popular culture and been exploited to create sensational headlines. It has also been the subject of learned discussion from many disciplines: including history, sociology, psychology, and psychotherapy. But until now, a crucial part of the debate has been missing: that of any serious reference to the science of the human brain. Descriptions of how opinions can be changed, whether by persuasion, deceit, or force, have been almost entirely psychological.
In Brainwashing, Kathleen Taylor brought the worlds of neuroscience and social psychology together for the first time. In elegant and accessible prose, and with abundant use of anecdotes and case-studies, she examines the ethical problems involved in carrying out the required experiments on humans, the limitations of animal models, and the frightening implications of such research. She also explores the history of thought-control and shows how it persists all around us, from marketing and television, to politics and education.
This edition includes a new preface from the author reflecting on the uses of brainwashing today, including by the Islamic State.
Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallised big ideas, and shaped the way we think.
Part 1: Torture and seduction
1: The birth of a word
2: God or the group?
3: The power of persuasion
4: Hoping to heal
5: 'I suggest, you persuade, he brainwashes'
6: Brainwashing and influence
Part 2: The traitor in your skull
7: Our ever-changing brains
8: Webs and new worlds
9: Swept away
10: The power of stop-and-think
11: That freedom thing
Part 3: Freedom and control
12: Victims and predators
13: Mind factories
14: Science and nightmare
15: Taking a stand
Kathleen Taylor, Department of Physiology, University of Oxford
Dr Kathleen Taylor studied physiology and philosophy at the University of Oxford. After a research MSc at Stirling University, working on brain chemistry, she returned to Oxford to do a DPhil in visual neuroscience and postdoctoral work on cognitive neuroscience. In 2002 she won two writing competitions run by the Times Higher Education Supplement, one for science writing and one for an essay in the humanities/social sciences. She has written on a range of topics from consciousness to cruelty, including several books published by OUP: Brainwashing (2004), Cruelty (2009), The Brain Supremacy (2012), and The Fragile Brain (2016).
Review from previous edition: 'A magisterially detailed survey... Taylor is never less than direct and engaging. The subject may be difficult but the writing never is. With no hint at all of academic pretension, this is a model of how to make hard science accessible without rendering it impossibly watered down or patronising. This is an outstanding book. Academic researchers and human rights professionals will find it a goldmine of relevant research and information. And anyone else interested in psychology will find it a thrill.' -- Focus Magazine 12/2004
`The book is to be commended. Taylor writes engagingly.' -- THES
`I can't remember when I last encountered such a thoroughly argued book which was also so accessible. A miracle of cogency.' -- Morning Star
`An ambitious and well-written study' -- The Guardian