Does Brainwashing Work?

Elizabeth Smart’s dramatic homecoming after nine months as the apparent captive of a drifter couple made front-page news. When it emerged that she had plenty of chances to run, her father claimed she may have been brainwashed. Last year, Dahlia Lithwick discussed America’s obsession with mind control—and whether brainwashing actually works: “Studies show American jurors overwhelmingly still believe brainwashing is a highly potent psychological phenomenon. In one much-cited 1991 survey of 383 random subjects, nearly 78 percent believed brainwashing can occur even if the subject ‘is not actually held captive against their will.’ “