Cults: Dissociation, Group Psychology, and Cognitive Dissonance

“”How does cult psychology work? How is it possible to persuade human adults to enter a weird cognitive landscapewith no basis in reality? To enter a fantasy realm so profound that they’ll willingly die for whomever has been selected as the local Messiah?”

–Matthew J Sharps Ph.D, “Cults and Cognition: Programming the True Believer.” Psychology Today. October 2, 2020.

Partial answer: Through dissociation group psychology, and cognitive dissonance.

“…cognitive dissonance (e.g ., Festinger et al. 1956), which manifests itself in the tendency to overvalue anything in which we’ve invested too much—money, time, emotional energy, whatever. Cognitive dissonance essentially means that the more you’ve paid, the better you like. Whether it makes any sense or not.

-ibid.

Politics as Cult

“…members of “totalistic” cults—those that consider their ideology the one true path—share four key characteristics. They 1) espouse an all-encompassing belief system; 2) exhibit excessive devotion to the leader; 3) avoid criticism of the group and its leader; and 4) feel disdain for non-members.”

—Tom Jacobs. “A Cult Expert Finds Familiar Patterns of Behavior in Trump’s GOP.” Pacific Standard. June 21, 2018.

I know people with liberal politics love diagnosing what is wrong with Trump and the Republican party in the United States. But, this criteria is every bit as relevant to Democratic politics as the GOP in the United States. Believe that your country has no business spending a half a trillion dollars a year on the military and maintaining almost 1,000 military bases abroad? Both major U.S. political parties subscribe to that notion and cannot even entertain the possibility that it might not be a good idea to spend this way on war.