Persuasion and The Church of Scientology

by Lucretia Klaber, Scott Constable,
Mick Rakauskas, & Zachary Shuler

    After reading about extreme groups, many people feel they could never be persuaded by them.  The reality is that we are persuaded every day by the many messages that pervade the media, by our family and loved ones, and probably by our friends the most.  With persuasion in these extreme groups, such things as compliance, conformity and obedience are sure to follow.  But first, persuasion starts the commitment for these other characteristics to accompany it.

    With persuasion we know that there are many factors contingent on its success.  For persuasion to work there must be basic ideas that need to be fulfilled in order to sway people to a certain way of thinking or conducting themselves.  One principle that affects initially, and continues thereafter, to influence is the peripheral route persuasion.  This principle focuses on the image/idea that is being portrayed so that others will want to achieve this image.  One group that is controversial because of its status among extreme groups is the Church of Scientology.  The Church of Scientology is a religious group known to have extreme views.  It focuses on the idea of self-improvement and the bettering of one's life through Dianetics (to read more about their successes click here).  Dianetics focuses on the intrinsic forces that guide the thoughts and behavior in man and also survival.  Focusing on becoming a better person is something that appeals to just about everyone.  Therefore with these subtle ideas that have an audiences attention to move on to the next step of influence and persuasion.

    With the idea of central route persuasion we see how credibility plays a part in influencing and persuading.  Central route persuasion refers to the idea that there are certain people that can "sell" certain ideas.  For instance, many people might not be inclined to buy a computer by a beautiful blond because she says it's a great buy; but instead Bill Gates might have more influencing selling his computers because of how successful and demanding his business has become.  L. Ron Hubbard the discoverer of Dianetics and Scientology provides many intelligent reasons and explanations to why his ideas are so becoming and successful.  The Church of Scientology also has many Hollywood superstars that are members of this religion.  Tom Cruise (see above left), John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Juliette lewis (see below right), and Kirstie Alley are just a few.  This is very interesting because it supports the idea that an image, especially celebrities with their attractiveness and fame, are so influential in selling products, messages, and ideas. More interesting than these star studded action figures is the fact that Stanley Milgram has also been a member.  This too is intriguing because the escalation of commitment involves increasing amounts of obedience and Stanley Milgram was extremely influential in psychology with his infamous studies on obedience. (To learn more about who's who in the Church of Scientology,  click here)

    What is most important above all this is the communication that is used in order to convey the message that carries the desired impact.  Communication can make or break the persuasion behind an image or idea, especially pertaining to extreme groups.  L. Ron Hubbard also focuses on this and acknowledges this importance.  On the Scientology web page it is stated that, "Scientology offers man the first system of bettering individuals through the improvement of their communication skills, with techniques that greatly increase one's ability to relate to his fellows.  Mr. Hubbard's discoveries on the subject, which included defining the component parts to communication and led to the communication formula, represent an entirely new approach to communication."

    Not everyone feels as strongly about the Church of Scientology's positive effects like their members.  To read more about former Scientology members, click here.  The Church of Scientology has also gotten negative press by being charged in a former member's death, click here for more details.  To read more about incidents with the Church of Scientology and to learn more about L. Ron Hubbard's background, click here.

[Photos on this page are from the Lycos Image Gallery in according with Lycos policy.]


Persuasion & Scientology

Compliance, Conformity, & Obedience in Cults and Militant Groups

Group Decision Making in Environmental Groups

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This tutorial was produced for Psy 324, Advanced Social Psychology, Spring 1999 at Miami University.  All graphics are from the public domain, used with permission or under fair use guidelines, or were created by the authors.  Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA).  Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 17:10:20. This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 May 1999. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman