Bounded Choice

Janja A. Lalich

in Bounded Choice

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780520231948
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937512 | DOI:
Bounded Choice

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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

Chapter.  6692 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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