Mind control (also known as brainwashing, coercive persuasion, mind abuse, thought control, or thought reform) refers to a process in which a group or individual “systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated.” The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making.
Theories of brainwashing and of mind control were originally developed to explain how totalitarian regimes appeared to succeed in systematically indoctrinating prisoners of war through propaganda and torture techniques. These theories were later expanded and modified, by psychologists including Margaret Singer, to explain a wider range of phenomena, especially conversions to new religious movements (NRMs). A third-generation theory proposed by Ben Zablocki focused on the utilization of mind control to retain members of NRMs and cults to convert them to a new religion. The suggestion that NRMs use mind control techniques has resulted in scientific and legal controversy. Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Sociological Association have found any scientific merit in such theories.
Project MKULTRA, or MK-ULTRA, was the code name for a covert, illegal CIA human research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. This official U.S. government program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects.
Donald Ewen Cameron (24 December 1901–8 September 1967) was a twentieth-century Scottish-American psychiatrist. Cameron was involved in Project MKULTRA, United States Central Intelligence Agency’s research on torture and mind control.
Cameron lived and worked in Albany, New York, and was involved in experiments in Canada for Project MKULTRA, a United States based CIA-directed mind control program which eventually led to the publication of the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual. He is unrelated to another CIA psychiatrist Alan Cameron, who helped pioneer psychological profiling of world leaders during the 1970s.
Naomi Klein states in her book The Shock Doctrine that Cameron’s research and his contribution to the MKUltra project was actually not about mind control and brainwashing, but about designing “a scientifically based system for extracting information from ‘resistant sources.’ In other words, torture…Stripped of its bizarre excesses, Dr. Cameron’s experiments, building upon Donald O. Hebb’s earlier breakthrough, laid the scientific foundation for the CIA’s two-stage psychological torture method.”