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WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised

Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

 

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

The group is preoccupied with making money.

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

 

This checklist will be published in the new book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006). It was adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.
 

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Resources

Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Definitional Ambiguity"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "On Using the Term "Cult"

 

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Related

 

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+ AFF News, 03.01: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What are They? Do They Work? - The Therapeutic Relationship
+ AFF News, 03.03: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "We Own Her Now"
< Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. - profile
< Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. - profile
<< Community Resources on Influence
= Captive Hearts Captive Minds
^ Langone, Michael: "Mental Health Update on Cults" - Cult Observer 13(1), 1996
^^ Cadre Ideal: Origins..Development...Political Cult
Captive Hearts Captive Minds
Chambers, Robert, Ph.D. et al.: "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale"
Chambers, Robert, Ph.D. et al.: "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale" - abs
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D. "Strongly Held Views...New Age...Critics Versus Experts"
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D.: "Is The New Age Movement Harmless? Critics Versus Experts" - abs
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D.: "Is The New Age Movement Harmless? Critics Versus Experts" - abs
Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Repairing The Soul After A Cult Experience"
Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "We Own Her Now"
Lalich, Janja, Ph.D.: "Individual Differences Affecting Recovery"
Lalich, Janja: "Evaluating Cult Involvement"
Langone, Micahel, Ph.D.: "Deception, Dependency & Dread The Conversion Process"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. & Nieburg, Herbert, Ph.D.: "Treatment of Satanism"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: " Secular and Religious Critiques of Cults"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Academic Disputes and Dialogue Collection: Preface"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Letter to a Former Member of a Meditation Group"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "On Dialogue Between the Two Tribes of Cultic Studies Resarchers"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Outline: Child Literature"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Psychological Abuse: Theoretical and Measurement Issues"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "The Comet and Its Tail"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "The Two Camps of Cultic Studies"
Langone, Michael Ph.D.: "Cults and Violence"
Langone, Michael, D. Ph.D.: "Group Psychological Abuse Scale"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "An Investigation of a Reputedly Psychologically Abusive Group that Targets College Students"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Are “Sound” Theology and Cultism Mutually Exclusive?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Boston Church of Christ Movement Study"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Business and the New Age Movement: A Critical Perspective"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Child Custody and Cults"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Children and Cults -- excerpt from Recovery from Cults
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cultic Studies Bibliography 2003"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults and Mind Control"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults, Conversion, Science, & Harm
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults, Psychological Manipulation, and Society
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults: Questions and Answers"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Definitional Ambiguity"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Helping Families"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Large Group Awareness Trainings"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Mind-Manipulating Groups: Are You or a Family Member a Victim?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "New Religions and Public Policy"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "On Using the Term "Cult"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Questionnaire Study: Preliminary Report"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Reflections on Post-Cult Recovery
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Research on Destructive Cults
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "The Art of Hoping: A Mother’s Story"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "The Cult Problem in Japan"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "We weren't Crazy; We were Fooled"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What Is New Age?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What Should be Done about Cults?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What You Might Want To Know About ICC
Langone, Michael: "Deprogramming, Exit Counseling, and Ethics: Clarifying the Confusion" - Cult Observer 10(4), 1993
Langone, Michael: "Mind-Manipulating Groups Checklist"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work?"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "How United States Marine Corps Differ from Cults"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "Psychotherapy Cults"
Ω Conference 1997: PA Presenter
Ω Conference 2000 WA: Speakers
Ω Conference 2002 FL: Presenters
Ω Conference 2003 CA: Events
Ω Conference 2003 CA: Presenter
Ω Conference 2003 CT: Events Overview
√ Lalich, Janja: "Women Under The Influence"
√ Langone, "Michael: Satanism & Occult-Related Violence"
√ Langone, Michael: "Recovery From Cults"
√ Singer, Margaret: "'Crazy'" Therapies"
√ Singer, Margaret: "'Crazy'" Therapies"
√ Singer, Margaret: "Cults In Our Midst: Hidden Menace in Our Lives
√ Tobias, Madeline: "Captive Hearts Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships"
√ Video: "After the Cult: Recovering Together"
√ Video: "Cults Saying No Under Pressure"
√ Video: "Symposium - Theory and Cults: In search of the Perfect Explanation, Sociological Theories, Psychological Manipulation: The Abuse of Women Conference"
√ Video: "Theory and Treatment Issues" from May 1991 Conference: Mind Manipulation, Cults, and Domestic Violence

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Help

Our E-Library contains full text articles and other resources related to the information below.  Click here.

WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection
 

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

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