Dick Anthony

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Dick Anthony is a forensic psychologist noted for his writings on the validity of brainwashing as a determiner of behavior, a prolific researcher of the social and psychological aspects of involvement in new religious movements. [1] [2]

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

Brainwashing process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated"

Brainwashing is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subject’s ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into the subject’s mind, as well as to change his or her attitudes, values, and beliefs.


Academic career

Anthony holds a PhD from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. [3] He has supervised research at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the Graduate Theological Union, and is a former director of the Graduate Theological Union's UC Berkeley-affiliated Center for the Study of New Religions. [3] [4] [5] His research has been supported by government agencies including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he has frequently testified or acted as a consultant in court cases involving allegations of religious coercion or harm resulting from involvement in a religious group. [6] Anthony has authored or co-authored a large number of scholarly articles on the topic and has co-edited several books. [3]

Graduate Theological Union

The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is a consortium of eight private independent American theological schools and eleven centers and affiliates. Seven of the theological schools are located in Berkeley, California. The GTU was founded in 1962 and has established a relationship with the University of California, Berkeley that allows students from both institutions enjoying privileges accorded to their own students. Additionally, some of the GTU consortial schools are part of other California universities such as Santa Clara University and California Lutheran University. Most of the GTU consortial schools are located in Berkeley around the campus of University of California, Berkeley, with the majority north of the campus in a neighborhood known as "Holy Hill" due to the cluster of GTU seminaries and centers located there.

Berkeley, California City in California, United States

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.

University of North Carolina public university system throughout North Carolina, USA

The University of North Carolina is a multi-campus public university system composed of all 16 of North Carolina's public universities, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation's first public residential high school for gifted students. Commonly referred to as the University of North Carolina System or the UNC System to differentiate it from the original campus in Chapel Hill, the university has a total enrollment of over 183,001 students and in 2008 conferred over 75% of all baccalaureate degrees in North Carolina. UNC campuses conferred 43,686 degrees in 2008–2009, the bulk of which were at the bachelor's level, with 31,055 degrees awarded.

Involvement in the brainwashing debate

Anthony has characterized brainwashing as "a pseudo-scientific myth", and spearheaded efforts which from 1990 onward led to the general rejection of brainwashing testimony as unscientific in United States courts. [7] Anthony asserted in the Washington Post that "no reasonable person would question that there are situations where people can be influenced against their best interests, but those arguments are evaluated on the basis of fact, not bogus expert testimony." [7] Dismissing the idea of mind control, he has defended new religious movements, and argued that involvement in such movements may often have beneficial, rather than harmful effects. [5]

Anthony was a key consultant for the government in the Fishman case and acted as a consultant in many subsequent cases of a similar nature, "frequently getting pseudoscientific mind control testimony excluded from evidentiary hearings". [8] [9] According to sociologist James T. Richardson, he was the "intellectual driving force" behind an amicus curiae brief on brainwashing endorsed by the American Psychological Association. [10] In the Fishman case, the court accepted Anthony's argument that Margaret Singer's brainwashing theory lacked scientific support, a decision that set a legal precedent and led to the exclusion of Margaret Singer and her colleague Richard Ofshe as expert witnesses in this and subsequent trials. [9] [11] [12] Afterwards, Singer and Ofshe twice sued Anthony, as well as the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association and several other scholars, for defamation and conspiracy to deprive them of their livelihoods. [9] [11] [12] Both suits were dismissed; in the second the judge granted the defendants a SLAPP motion, requiring Singer and Ofshe to pay Anthony's and the other defendants' legal costs. [11] [12]

James T. Richardson is a Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies, and the Director of the Master of Judicial Studies Degree Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Richardson specializes in social and behavioral science evidence, Sociology of Religions and New Religious Movements, Sociology of law, and Social movements. He is notably outspoken on high-profile cases such as Elizabeth Smart and Patty Hearst. He is a scientific critic of brainwashing theories.

An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and is typically presented in the form of a brief. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court. The phrase amicus curiae is legal Latin.

American Psychological Association scientific and professional organization

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, with around 118,000 members including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. The APA has an annual budget of around $115m. There are 54 divisions of the APA—interest groups covering different subspecialties of psychology or topical areas.

Anthony contributed a 100-page chapter on the brainwashing hypothesis to the book Misunderstanding Cults , edited by sociologists Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins, in which he criticized the "tactical ambiguity" of brainwashing theorists like Zablocki. [13] In Anthony's view, brainwashing proponents have, in their efforts to resurrect a discredited hypothesis, continually modified key assumptions underlying the concept in order to avoid any possibility of its empirical verification. [13] The chapter argues that "the term brainwashing has such sensationalist connotations that its use prejudices any scientific discussion of patterns of commitment in religious movements." [13]

<i>Misunderstanding Cults</i> book by Benjamin Zablocki

Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field was edited by Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins. The book was published by University of Toronto Press, on December 1, 2001 and includes contributions from ten religious, sociological and psychological scholars.

Benjamin Zablocki is an American professor of sociology at Rutgers University where he teaches sociology of religion and social psychology. He has published widely on the subject of charismatic religious movements, cults, and brainwashing.

Thomas Robbins is an author and an independent scholar of sociology of religion.


David G. Bromley and Anson Shupe, writing in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society (1998), have credited Anthony and his co-author, sociologist Thomas Robbins, with having written "the most articulate critique" of the anti-cult movement's perspective on brainwashing. [14] The sociologist James T. Richardson has referred to Anthony's scholarly work on brainwashing as "without peer". [10]

David G. Bromley is a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. He has written extensively about cults, new religious movements, apostasy, and the anti-cult movement.

The anti-cult movement is a social group which opposes any new religious movement (NRM) that they characterize as a cult. Sociologists David Bromley and Anson Shupe initially defined the ACM in 1981 as a collection of groups embracing brainwashing-theory, but later observed a significant shift in ideology towards pathologizing membership in NRMs. One element within the anti-cult movement, Christian counter-cult organizations, oppose NRMs on theological grounds and distribute information to this effect through church networks and via printed literature.


Book chapters and articles


Related Research Articles

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J. Gordon Melton American scholar new religious movements

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  1. Dawson, Lorne L.. Cults in context: readings in the study of new religious movements, Transaction Publishers 1998, p. 340, ISBN   978-0-7658-0478-5
  2. Robbins, Thomas. In Gods we trust: new patterns of religious pluralism in America, Transaction Publishers 1996, p. 537, ISBN   978-0-88738-800-2
  3. 1 2 3 Zablocki, Benjamin; Robbins, Thomas. Misunderstanding Cults , University of Toronto Press 2001, p. 522, ISBN   978-0-8020-8188-9
  4. Barkun, Michael. Millennialism and violence, Routledge 1996, p. 176, ISBN   978-0-7146-4708-1
  5. 1 2 Sipchen, Bob (1988-11-17). "Ten Years After Jonestown, the Battle Intensifies Over the Influence of 'Alternative' Religions", Los Angeles Times
  6. Lewis, James R. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements. Oxford University Press 2004, p. xi, ISBN   0-19-514986-6
  7. 1 2 Oldenburg, Don (2003-11-21). "Stressed to Kill: The Defense of Brainwashing; Sniper Suspect's Claim Triggers More Debate", Washington Post .
  8. Lucas, Phillip Charles; Tobbins, Thomas (eds.). New religious movements in the twenty-first century: legal, political, and social challenges in global perspective, Routledge 2004, p. 13, ISBN   978-0-415-96577-4
  9. 1 2 3 Richardson, James T. "Sociology and the New Religions: 'Brainwashing', the Courts, and Religious Freedom", in: Jenkins, Pamela J.; Kroll-Smith, Steve (eds.). Witnessing for Sociology: Sociologists in Court, Praeger Publishers 1996, pp. 128–130, ISBN   978-0-275-94852-8
  10. 1 2 Richardson, James T. Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2004, p. 145, ISBN   978-0-306-47887-1; the APA later withdrew its endorsement for "procedural and not substantial reasons".
  11. 1 2 3 Wilson, Bryan R.; Cresswell, Jamie (eds.). New religious movements: challenge and response, Routledge 1999, pp. 227–228, ISBN   978-0-415-20050-9
  12. 1 2 3 Richardson, James T. Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2004, pp. 134–135, ISBN   978-0-306-47887-1.
  13. 1 2 3 Zablocki, Benjamin; Robbins, Thomas. Misunderstanding Cults , University of Toronto Press 2001, p. 21, ISBN   978-0-8020-8188-9
  14. Swatos, William H.; Kivisto, Peter. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, Rowman Altamira 1998, p. 62, ISBN   978-0-7619-8956-1. Retrieved 2010-06-20.