Please visit our new site for up-to-date information and news.

Steven Hassan at MIT speaking about the Psychology of Cult Formation 5-2-13

Click here for full video listing

Steven Hassan at MIT speaking about the Psychology of Cult Formation 5-2-13

This talk was sponsored by The Secular Society of MIT as the last one in a series ( and was scheduled months before the Boston Marathon Bombings.

The speakers before me in the series were:
Steven Pinker on the evolutionary psychology of religion
Jonathan Lane on early childhood perceptions of the supernatural
Catherin Caldwell-Harris on the psychology of nonbelief
Monroe Butler on the neurology of religiosity

When the two bombers were identified, people who knew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were in total disbelief that he could be involved in such a despicable terrorist act as they knew him to be a kind, intelligent, warm, socially connected person. He was Captain of the wrestling team, graduate of Cambridge Ridge and Latin High School, who liked to party and had many friends. The big question in the media was: whether or not he could have been brainwashed. Immediately the suspicion was that his 7 yr older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had converted and became a more religious Muslim might have exercised undue influence over not only his brother but Katherine Russell, the woman he married. She dropped out of college, abandoned her life goals, converted to Islam and reportedly worked 70-80 hours to support Tamerlan and their young child.

I appeared on CNN, FOX PBS, NPR and other shows to discuss the possibility that maybe Tamerlan had been the subject of radicalization through undue influence tactics, and then influenced his brother and wife. Due to the lack of facts, my comments were based solely on my own cult experience in the 1970s and my 36 years of experience dealing with people who have experienced radical personality change due to mind control techniques described in the BITE model. The students and faculty present were particularly interested in me describing recruitment and indoctrination techniques.