EMPOWER Addiction Recovery

Home » Cult Phenomenon – Group Think

Cult Phenomenon – Group Think

CULT MENTALITY – What is a CULT?group think

A cult is defined as a small religious or non-religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion or societal norms. The Cult has beliefs regarded by society as abnormal or regarded by many as extreme or dangerous.

What cults have you heard of?

How is a cult different from a religion?

How is a cult different from a sect?

Since 1970s, has taken on derogatory meaning…cults engaging in extreme or dangerous behavior has gotten publicity.  How do we know when a cult is a dangerous cult?

The Charismatic Leader

  • Central authority in a single, charismatic leader – Viewed as a prophet, messenger – Not easily challenged
    Adoration often directed to leader rather than outside force – Cult often lives and dies by the leader
    Members willing to die or kill themselves if the leader says its necessary
  • Strict control over lives of members – Dress, marriage, reproduction, jobs, possessions
  • Separation from Outside Contacts – Including family and friends – Part of control – limits opportunities for intervention, criticism – Within cult, families sometimes separated
  • Polarized Worldview – Only the cult knows the right way to live and be – Life outside the cult is dangerous, corrupt – “Us vs. Them” – Living in Isolation – Communes, colonies – Often in remote places – Members do not come and go freely
  • Large Donations from Members, Small Group Size – Small size easier to control – Good standing dependent on donations – May be required to give up material wealth

Conformity to the Group

  • The group is number one, individual is always second to the group –
  • Independent thought suppressed, punished
  • Thought to your own wants, needs seen as sinful – GROUP THINK
  • Punishment for Criticism or Defection – Dire warnings against criticizing group even in small ways
  • Supernatural threats, threats of excommunication

Hassan developed the BITE acronym, which describes the components employed by destructive cults using mind control. BITE covers the following areas of control:

  • Behavior Control: An individual’s associations, living arrangements, food, clothing, sleeping habits, finances, etc., are strictly controlled.
  • Information Control: Cult leaders deliberately withhold or distort information, lie, propagandize, and limit access to other sources of information.
  • Thought Control: Cult leaders use loaded words and language, discourage critical thinking, bar any speech critical of cult leaders or policies, and teach an “us vs. them” doctrine.
  • Emotional Control: Leaders manipulate their followers via fear (including the fear of losing salvation, fear of shunning, etc.), guilt, and indoctrination.



Aronson, E., (2012) The Social Animal (11th ed). New York : Worth Publishers
Myers, D, Exploring Social Psychology, (7th ed). McGraw Hill.


%d bloggers like this: