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Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology (see doctrine).[1] It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned.[2] As such it is used pejoratively, often in the context of political opinions, theology or religious dogma. Instruction in the basic principles of science, in particular, can not properly be called indoctrination, in the sense that the fundamental principles of science call for critical self-evaluation and skeptical scrutiny of one's own ideas. In practice, however, a certain level of non-rational indoctrination, usually seen as miseducative, is invariably present.[3] The term is closely linked to socialization; in common discourse, indoctrination is often associated with negative connotations, while socialization refers to cultural or educational learning.

Religious indoctrination

Religious indoctrination, the original sense of indoctrination, refers to a process of imparting doctrine in a non-critical way. Most religious groups instruct new members in the principles of the religion; this is usually not referred to as indoctrination, because of the negative connotations the word has acquired. Mystery religions require a period of indoctrination before granting access to esoteric knowledge. (c.f. Information security)

As a pejorative term it implies forcibly or coercively causing people to act and think on the basis of a certain religion.[4] Some secular critics maintain that all religions indoctrinate their adherents, as children, and the accusation is also made in the case of religious extremism, such as Radical Islamist terrorism.

Military indoctrination

The initial psychological preparation of soldiers during training is referred to (non-pejoratively) as indoctrination. See Recruit training.

Information security

In the field of information security, indoctrination is the initial briefing and instructions given before a person is granted access to secret information. [5]


Noam Chomsky remarks, "For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we serve as willing or unwitting instruments."[6]

Robert Jay Lifton argues[7] that the objective of phrases or slogans like "blood for oil," or "cut and run," is not to continue reflective conversations but to replace them with emotionally appealing phrases. This technique is called the thought-terminating cliché.

See also


  1. I.A. Snook, ed. 1972. Concepts of Indoctrination (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).
  2. Wilson, J., 1964. "Education and indoctrination", in T.H.B. Hollins, ed. Aims in Education: the philosophic approach(Manchester University Press).
  3. Thiessen, Elmer John, 1985. "Initiation, Indoctrination, and Education", Canadian Journal of Education / Revue canadienne de l'éducation 10.3 (Summer 1985:229-249), with bibliography.
  4. See OED, indoctrination.
  5. The National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual defines indoctrination as "the initial security instructions/briefing given a person prior to granting access to classified information."
  6. Chomsky, Noam. "Propdaganda, American Style". Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  7. Lifton, Robert Jay (1989). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 524. ISBN 0-8078-4253-2. 

External links


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