Robert Jay Lifton’s – 8 Criteria of Thought Reform

Final YouTube Lifton

In this video, Spike Robinson delivers an exceptional presentation about Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Criteria of Thought Reform.

Beginning in 1953, Lifton interviewed American servicemen who had been prisoners of war (POWs) during the Korean War as well as priests and students or teachers who had been held in prison in China after 1951. In addition to interviews with 25 Americans and Europeans, Lifton interviewed 15 Chinese who had fled after having been subjected to indoctrination in Chinese universities.

Lifton’s 1961 book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, based on this research, was a study of coercive techniques used in the People’s Republic of China that he labelled “thought reform” or “brainwashing”, though he preferred the former term. The term “thought-terminating cliché” was popularized in this book. Lifton found that when the POWs returned to the United States their thinking soon returned to normal, contrary to the popular image of “brainwashing.” A 1989 reprint edition was published by University of North Carolina Press.

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