Visions of brainwashed minds permeated Cold War culture, politics and science. We map this history and ask how it influenced and was shaped by the ‘psy’ professions.


Battles of the mind: The long Cold War

We review ideas of brainwashing as they appeared in the postwar period, and trace their connection to clinicians’ analyses and therapeutic treatment of military captives in the Korean War and later conflicts.

Shadows of colonialism

We probe the imperial powers’ uses of psychological concepts and expertise in counter-insurgency, propaganda and re-education programmes after 1945.

Advertising, film and hidden persuasion

Our project explores the affinities between the post-war literature on commercial ‘hidden persuasion’ and popular depictions of brainwashed minds in television and film.

‘Psy’ expertise: Debates, reflections, reckonings

Our research considers how and why revelations and allegations of brainwashing returned to haunt all of the psy professions, inspiring new explorations and critiques of psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy.

Shaping the Child’s Mind

We explore how notions of thought control, autonomy and freedom change when we consider not only the psychology of adults, but of children and adolescents – and with what effects for pedagogy, parenting, mental health and therapy.

Here and now

We investigate how historical concepts of brainwashing continue to influence current debates about the ethics and limits of psy expertise in the indoctrination, coercion, and manipulation of human subjects.

On Attentive Listening: with Tanya Luhrmann

Dr Naomi Richman in conversation with Professor Tanya Luhrmann on psychology, anthropology and listening.

The Chronic Time of the ‘Dress Rehearsal’

Shaul Bar-Haim explores how Coronavirus affects our experience of time.

Narratives of Apocalypse

Naomi Richman explores the cultural history of apocalyptic thought and how it can guide us in imagining a better future.

The Hidden Persuaders Project has collaborated with independent filmmakers to produce two documentary films on the Korean War controversies that made ‘brainwashing’ a household word in the 1950s. We are pleased to now add a third film looking at the role of hidden persuasion in the field of advertising.