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Physical and mental harm caused by participation in cults from a psychological perspective
Dingcheng REN,Chenhong HE,Tianjia CHEN
Advances in Psychological Science    2018, 26 (12): 2091-2100.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2018.02091
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Scientific research on the phenomena of the physical and mental injury caused by participation in cults focuses on three aspects: definition, measurement and mechanism. The purpose of this paper is to review the issues, analyses, and findings on these three topics, and to clarify the field’s controversies and achievements. Our literature survey indicates that a) the terminology regarding the harm caused by cults has changed from “brainwashing” to “psychological abuse”; b) the focus of observation has changed from individual behavior to group experiences; c) the measurement of harm has shifted from traditional psychometric tools to group psychological abuse scales; and d) for psychological mechanisms, an interactive pathology model based on cult milieu factors and personal vulnerability has been established, and epigenetics and interpersonal neurobiology are also primarily used in the study of physiological mechanisms. However, a new research paradigm on cult harm has not yet been formed.

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