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Bounded ChoiceTrue Believers and Charismatic Cults$
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Janja Lalich

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520231948

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520231948.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 July 2021

Bounded Choice

Bounded Choice

Cult Formation and the Development of the True Believer

Chapter:
(p.247) CHAPTER 11 Bounded Choice
Source:
Bounded Choice
Author(s):

Janja A. Lalich

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520231948.003.0011

This chapter reviews the theoretical foundations of the bounded choice theory and suggests its relevance to ongoing research on cults, the true-believer mentality, and to other manifestations of single-mindedness in our society, including our present-day concern with terrorism and fanaticism. The prevailing theories at both end of the spectrum are challenged. Bounded choice is connected to other theories on conformity and cognitive dissonance, yet is different from them. The framework offers a new perspective on the identity shift and resultant behavior of the true believers. The chapter considers individual choice in the context of an authoritarian, transcendent, closed system, and addresses the person who has internalized the group worldview to such a degree that on those occasions when he is in full alignment with the cult mind-set, he no longer experiences a particular activity or pronouncement as wrong or questionable. The boundaries of his perceptions and his choices are tightly drawn and sealed by the interlocking nature of the cultic structure, its social system, and his role in it. In Heaven's Gate, as well as the DWP, the boundaries of knowledge were shut tight and reinforced in three specific ways: through the process of resocialization, through the use of ideology, and through social controls. Thus, in closed, self-sealing groups not only is rationality bounded, as it is in all environments, but further choices are bounded.

Keywords:   bounded choice theory, resocialization, conformity, cognitive dissonance, individual choice

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