[As approved by Professor Scheflin. Taken from Jon Atack’s Opening Our Minds: avoiding abusive relationships and authoritarian groups (Trentvalley ltd, Colchester, 2021) with permission from the author.]

Law Professor Alan W. Scheflin coined the phrase “The Myth of the Unmalleable Mind” which is the basic belief that we are in control of our own minds and cannot be unfairly influenced outside of our awareness. This is a comforting thought; however, history has shown that this “comforting thought” is a myth. Most readers of this book have come to this understanding the hard way. 

Let us suppose you believe that you have been a victim of an impermissible form of mind manipulation or coercive thought control. And you now want to sue the perpetrators. The first problem you will encounter is finding an attorney sufficiently qualified to handle these very specialized types of cases. 

While “cultic” organizations and other persuasion groups are armed with attorneys well versed in defending their clients in these cases, there are very few lawyers with expertise in advocating for injured parties such as yourself who have been the victims of such organizations. Once you have found an attorney willing to take your case to court, there are new hurdles to conquer. 

In the past, judges have refused to step into litigation that involved topics such as “brainwashing” or “mind control” or “thought reform.” What plaintiffs needed was a recognized legal theory that would open the doors to the courtroom. They found such a theory in the concept of “undue influence,” which has been recognized for hundreds of years as providing monetary relief for people who have essentially been swindled out of their money. 

Fortunately, in recent years legislatures have added new laws making it easier to obtain financial compensation when “coercive control” or “predatory alienation” has been involved. 

At this point, the attorney must prove that you, the plaintiff-victim, were taken advantage of in such a manner that justice demands relief. To accomplish this goal, Professor Scheflin created the Social Influence Model (SIM) in 2015.

Professor Scheflin’s inspiration came from a section of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “My Six Servants,’ published in Just So Stories (1902): 

I keep six honest serving-men 

They taught me all they knew; 

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who

The Social Influence Model (SIM) has these six components: 

1. Influencer [Identity and Status] [Who] 

2. Influencer’s Motives [Purpose] [Why] 

3. Influencer’s Methods [Techniques] [What/How] 

4. Circumstances [Timing & Setting] [Where/When] 

5. Influencee’s Receptivity/Vulnerability [Individual Differences] [Who]

6. Consequences [Results] [What]

The SIM is designed to be a benefit to five different audiences: 

1. Victims – You are going to court because you have been made a victim by the person or organization you are now suing. In order to assist your lawyer, you will need to provide him or her with a factual description of what happened to you over the course of your mental enslavement. Interestingly, the Kipling poem is taught in journalism courses as a guide for reporters to be able to present the most instructive and compelling story. Readers of such stories will have the most complete understanding of what happened when each of the Six Servants is represented. 

In bringing a legal case, you are the reporter of your own story and need to provide to your lawyer each of the Six Servants in order for him or her to present the facts by which the judge and jury can comprehend fully the circumstances that have brought you before them. Your lawyer will want to know what happened to you, when it took place, where it took place, how it happened, why it happened, and who was involved in making it happen. It is always advisable to put your presentation into a chronological format and to state carefully the various details, both factual and emotional, of your experience. This process should help clarify the experience you had and enable both you and others to view it clearly and dispassionately.

2. Lawyers – A good lawyer must make your case come alive in the hearts and minds of the jurors and the judge. Factual evidence and scientific evidence must be woven together to fit into the legal theory your lawyer will present. Every legal theory has certain elements which must be proven before financial compensation can be awarded. 

For lawyers, the SIM has several purposes. Lawyers prove their cases by presenting witnesses to explain the facts and experts to explain the science. A lawyer could make a chart of the SIM and include the information you have provided and the testimony witnesses and experts will give. Lawyers long ago discovered that the eye is more powerful than the ear. While jurors can hear evidence, it is much more dramatic if they see a visual representation of it. For example, in a case involving an automobile and locomotive collision, a lawyer in a courtroom brought in a full-sized model of the front of a train engine, which had a much more formidable impact than just referring to the train. In another case involving overcrowding in prisons, a lawyer constructed a life-size mock-up of a prison cell so jurors could see how physically confining it was when an excessive number of prisoners were put into it. 

Similarly, charts and graphs in which evidence and science have been summarized into categories are more compelling than jurors being asked to remember hours and hours of often technical testimony. The SIM also focuses the lawyer’s attention by directing the jurors’ attention to each element that must be proven in order for you to prevail. Indeed, most presentations given by lecturers involve some type of PowerPoint or similar computer-assisted visual presentations. A further benefit is that the organization of each of the elements aids the jurors in providing a structure for their deliberations.

3. Experts – It is the job of expert witnesses to explain science to the jury and judge. With regard to cases involving allegations of some type of mind control or undue influence, technical scientific data can be more easily structured using the SIM. For example, the Influencer’s Methods may involve a variety of psychological persuasion techniques carefully used on innocent victims unaware that they are being manipulated. To take an easy example, in cases involving various aspects of child abuse and seduction, an expert might present evidence of what is called  “grooming,” with the accompanying scientific literature supporting how what seems to start as an innocent introduction to someone leads to their mental and physical domination. 

Another example involves the Influencee’s Receptivity/Vulnerability. It is well known that people have different personality styles. Some people are more susceptible to influence than others. This is often called Individual Differences. 

There are various scientific testing instruments that can determine a person’s receptivity to suggestion or influence. These scales often appear in cases involving hypnosis and cases involving police interrogation. Because expert testimony is often the most difficult for jurors to process, the SIM provides a visual reminder of why jurors are hearing this particular expert testimony and why it is relevant to the resolution of the case. 

There are volumes of books and manuals for salespeople and telemarketers where they are taught a variety of techniques for keeping a potential customer engaged until the point of sale. In fact, this is another example of grooming. This knowledge is usually outside the realm of the victim’s conscious understanding.

4. Jurors – Jurors appreciate having evidence organized for them. In court, evidence is usually not presented in a sequential manner, especially given the fact that two sides deliver entirely different conceptions of what the case is about and the nature of the relevant facts. The SIM allows the jurors to take both sides of the case and understand how to make decisions about what evidence to accept or reject. It gives them a clearer path to the verdict they will reach. Jurors appreciate that.

5. Judges – For the same reasons that the SIM is persuasive for jurors; it is also persuasive for judges. A judge decides what evidence is admissible, what legal theories are permissible, and what jury instructions are acceptable. Jurors may ultimately decide the case, but it is the judge who is the gatekeeper as to what evidence the jury can hear and what expert testimony is relevant. The SIM is a useful structure for the judge to understand the significance of certain expert testimony that the judge might otherwise consider irrelevant. Judges appreciate when a lawyer has made their task easier.

Conclusion: We began with the Myth of the Unmalleable Mind and we conclude with the Myth of Irreversible Mind Control. This is the belief that mind control techniques turn people into human robots who cannot be salvaged. Just as people are wrong to believe their minds cannot be unduly influenced, people are wrong to believe that once having fallen under the influence, people cannot be brought back to their senses. Indeed, the SIM is part of the process of this reverse engineering. 

For many people, the greatest threat, often unthought and unspoken, is that other people can comfortably be doing their thinking for them. Group conformity is easier than individual responsibility, but it also diminishes the soul. We should concentrate less on teaching people what to think, and more on how to think. 

The United States Supreme Court in 1969 in Stanley v. Georgia [394 U.S. 557] said: “Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.” Our whole human heritage should rebel at the thought of giving people the power to control men’s minds.[i]

~ Jon Atack, taken from Opening Our Minds: avoiding abusive relationships and authoritarian groups (Trentvalley ltd, Colchester, 2021), with his permission

see also Jon’s YouTube channel, jonatack, family and friends.

[i] See Scheflin, “Supporting Human Rights by Testifying Against Human Wrongs”, International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol. 6, 2015, 69-82.


Jon Atack’s paper, “Never Believe a Hypnotist

Interview with Steven Hassan and Alan Scheflin: Evaluating Undue Influence: Scheflin’s Model as a Framework

Steven Hassan’s dissertation: The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking, and the Law

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