A New Framework: Exploring Efficiency
How can we more effectively assess undue influence? Here are methodologies and results for the search for a new framework that could help victims of undue influence achieve justice.
(This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 addressed issues surrounding undue influence in the legal system, as well as major models of thought reform and brainwashing like background for a new framework for assessing undue influence. This article discusses the assessment of the proposed model – Ed.)
If our current means of detecting undue influence are not sufficient, can the BITE (Behaviour, Information, Thought, and Emotional) model of authoritarian control be useful? To better understand the feasibility and effectiveness of such an approach and validate its use as a reliable instrument, we conducted a study, which is detailed here.
An anonymous online survey was created on SurveyMonkey and sent to participants to collect data for this study. This approach allowed us to move forward with an Institutional Review Board exemption. Participants were recruited online via social media and blogs. About 14% of participants identified as current members of a high control group living primarily in the United States and other parts of the world. According to the data collected, 82% of participants said they were former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Scientology, multi-party marketing groups levels (MLM) and other high control groups. Convenience and snowball sampling methods were used to distribute the link to friends and family members. Participants consented electronically to participate in the research study. Confidentiality and anonymity were assured to them, as none of the IP addresses were recorded. Furthermore, participation was completely voluntary and participants could withdraw at any time.
Detailed demographic information on 1044 participants was collected. Less than 15% of the sample was incomplete. Participants were asked detailed questions regarding their involvement in the group in question, the duration of their involvement in the group, etc. A summary of demographic data is provided in Table 1.
To quantify the BITE model, 4 instruments were created on each component of BITE. It took approximately 30-40 minutes for participants to complete this survey. There were 132 items developed from the 4 BITE instruments: 31 items were written to represent behavioral control, 33 items to represent information control, 29 items to represent thought control and 39 items to represent emotional control. The response format was a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 to 6 (1=Never, 2=Rarely, 3=Occasionally, 4=Frequently, 5=Usually, and 6=Always). Response labels were selected to assess the frequency of control over each of these items. There were 20 questions based on demographics, country of residence, employment status, highest level of education obtained, etc.
Raw data collected from all participants who responded to the BITE model survey and demographic questions were exported from SurveyMonkey to an IBM Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). All raw data has been cleaned and labeled and prepared for analysis.
The research question for this study was: What are the underlying dimensions of the elements of the Behavioral, Informational, Mental and Emotional (BITE) Model of Mind Control?
Watch the results
Factor analysis was performed using principal component analysis method and the following results were obtained using scree diagram, KMO and Bartlett test, load loads highest items and the total variance table.
The scree plot makes it possible to determine the number of factors to be retained in the principal component analysis. The procedure for finding statistically significant factors/components is given in the Figure. This graph confirmed the decision to opt for 1-factor extraction.
Bartlett’s test examines whether the correlation matrix is an identity matrix. This condition simply means that the variables are completely independent of each other; thus, the factor model is inappropriate. The identity matrix can be excluded if the p-value of the test is less than 0.005.
As seen in Table 2the KMO value is 0.970 which is considered excellent as it exceeds 0.5.
Researchers calculated Bartlett’s sphericity test and showed a significant sphericity of p=0.000, which is less than (p
Factor loadings were reasonably strong, ranging from about 0.84 to 0.65. Items were screened for high to low factor loadings. All items less than 0.65 were excluded (Table 3).
As only one major factor was derived from the analysis, we decided to name this factor “authoritarian control”. Through Merriam Webster Online Dictionarythe main definition of the word authoritarian is “of, related to or favoring an authority of blind submission”. However, Encyclopedia Britannica defines authoritarianism as the “principle of blind submission to authority, as opposed to individual freedom of thought and action”, which might be more appropriate.
The 4 BITE components explain a cumulative total of 49.33% of the variance (Table 4).
The first factor explained a total of 35.07% of the variance. Analysis of the remaining 65% variance yielded no concretely significant factors. As this variance was small, insignificant, and mostly data noise, it was not considered. This data was represented in the scree diagrams by the long horizontal line at the bottom of the Figure. The content of the first factor items resembled those in the underlined literature review, model, and was labeled as a control. In summary, principal component analysis of the questionnaire items yielded a simple, interpretable one-factor structure.
What do these results mean and what does it mean for real-life parameters? The next episode will evaluate these results. Additionally, it explains how this new framework will help the justice system provide a better tool to assess individuals under undue influence in order to deliver the justice they deserve.
(Interested readers are invited to attend “The BITE of Cults in Our Culture in the Age of COVID” presentation on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, in which Dr. Hassan will be a co-presenter.)
Dr Hassan is a mental health professional and expert working for over 45 years in the area of destructive authoritarian control (undue influence) in relationships, organizations and belief systems. He is the author of 4 books including Fighting cult mind control and free spirit. He founded the Freedom of Mind Resource Center. He is the developer of the BITE model of authoritarian control, the continuum of influence model and the strategic interactive approach. All contribute to empowering individuals to emerge from authoritarian cults, trafficking, extremist groups, conspiracy theories and controlling relationships.
Dr Gutheil is a professor of psychiatry and co-founder of the Psychiatry and Law Program in the Beth Israel Deaconess Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the first professor of psychiatry in the history of Harvard Medical School to be certified in clinical and forensic psychiatry. An internationally renowned forensic psychiatrist and author of over 300 publications in the national and international clinical and forensic literature, Gutheil has served as a consultant or expert witness in over 40 states. The recipient of all major awards in the forensic field and several teaching and writing awards, he is also the recipient of the 2000 A. Clifford Barger Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award, Harvard Medical School. Gutheil lives and works in the Boston area.
Ms Shah was born in India and resides in the United States. She is a research associate at the Dare Association, Inc. and a member of the Psychiatry and Law Program at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. She holds a double master’s degree in psychology and writes articles based on her knowledge of behavioral and experimental psychology.