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Techniques Conversion > Polarization

Lionizing the group | Demonizing the out-group | Punishing offendersSee also


One way in which groups lock in their members is by creating a simple, but powerful, black-and-white picture of the world in which sharp choices have to be made.

Lionizing the group

The group is presented as representing or seeking ultimate good. This may start with the notion of a socially caring and harmonious society, but then positions itself as being superior to the rest of the world. In fact only an idiot would consider leaving such a paradise.

The ultimate representation of this greatness is usually the group leader, who may also associate themselves with some other great person (Jesus, or even God, is not an uncommon association). They often create a culture of worship of the leader, who can do no wrong.

Demonizing the out-group

Anyone who is not a member of the group is cast either as innocent and 'to be saved', or bad and either to be shunned or to be fleeced or otherwise taken advantage of.

A common feature of extreme groups is a prediction that the world will end in some way and only the people in the group will be saved. A variation of this is the more general prediction of decay and chaos in the outer world, again attributed to the evil nature of out-group members.

Punishing offenders

By association, anyone who expresses any thoughts about leaving the group is effectively saying that they prefer the company demons to the company of gods. This is just cause for judgment and punishment to 'cleanse' them of such evil thoughts.

Commitment to the group is thus either total or is subject to severe punishment, which is often done publicly to signal this awful choice to others in the group.

A common direction of a group is that the leader becomes both increasingly paranoid and also increasingly obsessed with power. In such groups, punishments can become more and more severe and meted out to people who only seem to be thinking 'bad thoughts'.

See also

Polarization, Guilt, Contrast principle, Authority principle

In-Group Bias, Stereotypes

Amplification principle, Persistence principle

Conversion Books

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