Blog Post #4- Inquiry Research Round #2- Why are people attracted to cults?

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Why are people attracted to cults? — mindset of the cult member

Hi everyone! In my last research round, I talked about what cults are. This round, I will be discussing the mindset of a cult member. This will include their mindset when they joined, when they are leaving, after leaving, and how they could have avoided this situation.

 First, I decided to look at different interviews with previous cult members. The vast majority of people who are in cults were either born, forced, or manipulated into them. Cults can seem utopian at first. People who feel alone and directionless are especially vulnerable. Being ingenuous is a common personality trait of cult members. After losing something of personal or professional value, a cult may fill that void. Many cults advertise themselves as support groups and ways to have self-improvement. They appear to be a group of supportive friends who want to help you. People with a lack of self-esteem are generally drawn to these cults. Certain previous members mentioned the lack of attention and care from friends and family being a factor as well. [1] [2][3] 

 How does the cult members mindset change when they decide to leave? There are many factors which can change a cult members mind. A lack or loss of faith can cause this. Eventually, they realize that the beliefs do not make sense, or they do not add up. Other factors can include conflicts with cult other members or the cult leaders. Claire Ashman, who lived in a cult for 28 years, was thrown out of the cult due to conflicts with the leader. They do not want doubting members to change the thought process of other members. [3] [4] 

Previous cult members face a great amount of psychological issues after leaving. The first being feelings of guilt, remorse, and shame. Inside cults, they are told to draw other innocent people into the group. [5] The techniques they use consist mainly of different forms of exploitation. [6]  As most of their techniques are illegal, they must live with a constant fear of retribution. This means that they are scared of being punished for what they have done in the past. Panic and anxiety attacks may also become a part of their day to day life. The fear of being tracked down by cult leaders is also a constant worry. [5] Looking at it from a different perspective, former cult members tend to lack knowledge from the real world, and some suffer from cognitive deficiencies. [5] [3] After living for many years, locked away from the ” real world”, it is difficult to understand. Inside cults, there is no social media, no television, no newspaper, etc. They are hidden from the members. Any outside information may lead them change beliefs, and cult leaders do not want that. You are not allowed to express your emotions or ideas either. Due to this, many children who are born into cults have stunned development of the brain.[3][5][6] Some cult members suffer from PTSD after leaving. They have triggers and flashbacks. These are only a few of the horrible effects that previous cult members must endure. [5]

How could they have avoided this situation? Unfortunately, there is no specific way to full avoid cults. If a friend or family is in a cult, it is important to show them support, especially once they start doubting their beliefs. Helping them cope with their losses can also help prevent them from blindly joining a cult. [3][6] It is important to remember that most people who are in cults, are not aware that it is a cult. [6]

Thank you so much for reading! Next research round, I will be discussing the mindset of a cult leader. Any reliable sources and comments are appreciated 🙂 Stay tuned, and I hope you all learnt something!

 Sources (sites, videos, PDF)




4. file:///C:/Users/Nikki%20Shahram/AppData/Local/Temp/–What-factors-contribute-to-joining-or_2017_Psychiatry-Resea.pdf



Sources (image)


5 Replies to “Blog Post #4- Inquiry Research Round #2- Why are people attracted to cults?”

  1. Dear Nikki,

    I really enjoy your first round of research! Looking back at your initial plan, I believe you made an excellent decision to start with a brief introduction, as a whole, to now getting very in-depth! Your specific examples got me thinking about its development into, what I would now consider, a larger audience. Interesting read!

    Best Regards,


  2. Hi Nikki,
    This was a very interesting read! I think it was a great idea to look into interviews of previous members in cults!
    I am looking forward to reading your next round of research!

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