In this TED talk from 2009, cognitive deprogrammer Diane Benscoter talks about her efforts to help people leave cults.
At the age of 17, Benscoter joined The Unification Church—the religious cult whose members are commonly known as “Moonies.” After five long years, her distressed family arranged to have her deprogrammed. Benscoter then left The Unification Church, and was so affected by her experience that she became a deprogrammer herself. She devoted her time to extracting others from cults, until she was arrested for kidnapping— but the shock of her arrest caused her to abandon her efforts for nearly 20 years.
Now, after decades of research and study, Benscoter is once again talking about her experiences. She recently completed a memoir describing her years as a member of The Unification Church and as a deprogrammer.
In addition to this, she has embarked on a new project to define “extremist viral memetic infections”. She believes that defining extremism as a memetic infection, from a cognitive neurological perspective, might allow us to develop better memes that would inoculate against the memes of extremist thought. These inoculating memes could prevent the spread of extremist viral memetic infections and their inherent dangers.