Bennett Blum, M.D.
“Undue influence” refers to the form of manipulation and control of another’s behavior. Being a legal term, it has no unique medical definition, however the fields of psychiatry, psychology, and sociology have all studied in the phenomenon, and have developed several approaches to understanding it. These approaches define the situations or conditions necessary to inappropriately manipulate a victim’s thoughts and behavior. Historically, three of the best know models are those of Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D. (6 “conditions”), Robert Lifton, M.D. (8 “themes”), and Edgar Schein, Ph.D. (3 “stages”). The newest model was created by Bennett Blum, M.D. (4 “conditions”). Each has advantages and weaknesses. The four models are listed below.
None of the models (or approaches) allows an expert to determine whether undue influence occurred. An expert can only testify whether the necessary conditions existed, and how the victim was affected.
Some state laws enable an attorney to effectively argue that undue influence existed even if there is insufficient information for use by a mental health expert.
Four Models of Thought Reform/Coercive Persuasion/Undue Influence
- Dependency upon the perpetrator
- Isolation from pertinent information
- Emotional manipulation
- Access and/or control of the victim’s assets/belongings
- Milieu control.
- Loading the language.
- Demand for purity.
- Mystical manipulation.
- Doctrine over person.
- Sacred science.
- Dispensing of existence.
- Keep the person unaware of what is going on and the changes taking place.
- Control the person’s time and, if possible, physical environment.
- Create a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, and dependency.
- Suppress much of the person’s old behavior and attitudes.
- Instill new behavior and attitudes.
- Put forth a closed system of logic; allow no real input or criticism.