10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Cults – Online Psychology Degree Guide

Humans desire comfort, and in a fearful and uncertain world many turn to cults because they tend to promote exactly that. Jon-Patrik Pedersen, a psychologist at CalTech, has pointed out that cult leaders often make promises that are totally unattainable, but also offered by no other group in society. Such things might include financial security, total health, constant peace of mind, and eternal life — the things every human desires at the deepest level.

Today’s world is a tough one, with more abstract issues than there are issues that are black and white. As Dr. Adrian Furnham describes in Psychology Today, humans crave clarity. Many people join cults because they believe they’re being offered solid, absolute answers for questions such as good vs. evil, religion, the meaning of life, politics, etc. Many cult leaders promote messages that are simple and seem to make sense, the exact opposite of what we’re often provided with in typical, everyday life. New members are often found when individuals crave these answers and then are promised a simple life by someone who seems to have it all figured out.

People are often surprised to learn that those who join cults are, for the most part, average people. Many victims of cults are your neighbor, your friend from the gym, your family member. They come from all backgrounds, all zip codes, and all tax brackets. But research done in the past two decades has found an interesting pattern: many people successfully recruited by cults are said to have low self-esteem. Cults generally do not look to recruit those with certain handicaps or clinical depression. However, people with low self-esteem are easier to break down, then build back up in an effort to teach them that the cult is the supportive environment they’re looking for. Those that lack confidence and self esteem are far more likely to fall for a pyramid scheme that promises a better life or to jump into a religious community or religious group without much thought. They are more vulnerable and desperate for these life promises.

Once people have been recruited by a cult, they are often “love bombed.” This odd phrase is commonly used to describe the ways in which someone with low self-esteem is consistently flattered, complimented, and seduced in order to train their brain to associate the cult with love and acceptance. When someone feels unworthy of love, they are the first to fall for the false affirmations associated with love bombing. Unfortunately, cults often reach intense, unhealthy, and inappropriate levels of closeness and “love” when they are preying on the weak. This often leads to sexual abuse, arranged plural marriagechild abusesex trafficking, harboring black mail, and more.

10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Cults – Online Psychology Degree Guide