Gateway criticism: You’re not perfect

From an interesting blog post about prisoners of war being brainswashed in China, we get a glimpse into the techniques of persuasion.

The assumption under which the mind-warping by the Chinese proved effective was this:

“After we’ve committed to something, even trivially, we start to support it. We have a need to think of ourselves as being consistent in our thoughts and actions. If our behaviour shows one thing and our beliefs another, one of them has got to change.”

So the prisoners were pushed to slowly (and seemingly harmlessly) chip away at their idea of America. Like so:

“Prisoners were frequently asked to make statements so mildly anti-American or pro-Communist as to seem inconsequential (e.g. ‘The United States is not perfect.’). But once these minor requests were complied with, the men found themselves pushed to submit to related yet more substantive requests.”

It’s called the foot-in-the-door technique. They were asked to be more specific about America’s problems, and to write out a list. Slowly but surely they’d be asked to sign their name to the statements, join in a discussion group, and enter an essay competition. And they found it hard to refuse, despite not being threatened.

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