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Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Thursday, 6 September 2012 08:31 UK

Is it possible to brainwash someone?


The death of Sun Myung Moon, the man who founded the cult we know as the Moonies, has again focussed attention on brainwashing.

Dr Kathleen Taylor, author of Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, said it is not a "magical interference with the brain" as is portrayed in science-fiction films.

She defined brainwashing as "a very extreme coercive application of tried and tested techniques of psychology".

Prof Eileen Barker, from Inform, a government organisation providing information on minority religions, said that because it is a metaphor it is very difficult to know what is meant by brainwashing.

"Using terms like brainwashing just obfuscates rather than illuminates," she told the Today programme.

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