Psychology and Social Science


When-Prophecy-Fails-Festinger-Leon-97819051771961956 When Prophesy Fails | Leon Festinger, Henry W Riecken, Stanley Schachter

Why do people in cults like Scientology believe such bizarre things, if they are not ‘brainwashed’? This book provides one alternative explanation. It describes a study of a small and short-lived UFO cult by a social psychologist who ‘infiltrated’ the group with observers (his students).

A belief developed that ‘the end of the world was nigh’, but wise aliens would save the faithful by taking them up in spaceships – and set a date. Some members disposed of everything they owned in this expectation.

When this did not happen, most observers would expect the believers to lose their faith. The social-psychologists theorised that the exact opposite would happen – that they would invent and explanation for the delay, and recruit with renewed fervour – that the failure of their prophesy would actually reinforce their faith.

They were correct, and their explanation was developed into a general theory widely used in psychology – cognitive dissonance.


obedience-to-authority1974 Obedience to Authority | Stanley Milgram Full Text Online PDF | Download PDF

After the Second World War, and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, the world struggled to find an explanation for the behaviour of apparently ‘normal’ people who had participated (or were complicit) in the cruelty, torture an genocide that undoubtedly took place.

Many theories were proposed – notably that German culture was responsible for creating an ‘authoritarian personality’ which led to people to obey orders without question.

Stanley Milgram stepped in to this debate with a controversial experiment. His results were astonishing, and required a complete reappraisal of  what we thought we know about human behaviour.They should be required reading for every citizen.

Click on the image or the text link to read the detailed review.


bounded choice2004 Bounded Choice | Janja Lalich

‘Cult’ groups are marked by a number of negative characteristics. These commonly include bizarre (and often self-contradictory) beliefs, onerous discipline  sometimes amounting to abuse and the requirement to virtually worship  ‘leaders’ who are often obviously corrupt.

This book proposes a broad theory to explain why people remain committed to these organisations (sometimes for many years) despite  their blatantly obvious failings.

The theory – “Bounded Choice” – proposes that ‘cult’ members gradually become embedded in a  social situation where common ideas are deemed unthinkable, and common behaviour to be wrong – a ‘thought-tight bubble’.  Once in this situation, people come to strange conclusions not because they reasoning is faulty, but because they are applying to limited and faulty information. As computer scientists say about the use of corrupt date, “garbage in, garbage out”.


mistakes-were-made2007  Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) | Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson

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lucifer effect2007 The Lucifer Effect | Philip Zimbardo

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Books About Scientology | Books with Sections About Dianetics / Scientology | Psychology and Social Science

Miscellaneous Books | Apologist Books | Brainwashing? Pros and Cons


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