Indoctrination is the process of ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology. It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned. As such it is used pejoratively. Instruction in the basic principles of science, in particular, can not properly be called indoctrination, in the sense that the fundamental principals of science call for critical self-evaluation and skeptical scrutiny of one's own ideas.


Indoctrination refers to a wide range of different activities, and finding a single definition is problematic. In the fields of psychology, sociology and educational research, more precise terms are often preferred, including (but not limited to): socialization, propaganda, manipulation, and brainwashing.

In education, distinguishing (undesirable) "indoctrination" from the (acceptable) teaching of values is particularly problematic.

Religious indoctrination

Religious indoctrination refers to customary rites of passage for the indoctrination of persons into a particular religion and its extended community.

Most religious groups instruct new members in the principles of the religion; this is usually not referred to as indoctrination, because of the negative connotations the word has acquired. Mystery religions require a period of indoctrination before granting access to esoteric knowledge. (c.f. Information security)

Military indoctrination

The initial psychological preparation of soldiers during training is referred to (non-pejoratively) as indoctrination. See Recruit training.

Information security

In the field of information security, indoctrination is the initial briefing and instructions given before a person is granted access to secret information. [The National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual defines indoctrination as "the initial security instructions/briefing given a person prior to granting access to classified information."]


Noam Chomsky remarks, "For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we serve as willing or unwitting instruments." [cite web
last = Chomsky
first = Noam
authorlink = Noam Chomsky
title = Propdaganda, American Style
url =
accessdate = 2007-06-29

Robert Jay Lifton argues [cite book
last = Lifton
first = Robert Jay
authorlink = Robert Jay Lifton
title = Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China
publisher = University of North Carolina Press
date = 1989
pages = 524
isbn = 0-8078-4253-2
] that the objective of phrases or slogans like "blood for oil," or "cut and run," is not to continue reflective conversations but to replace them with emotionally appealing phrases. This technique is called the thought-terminating cliché.


ee also

* Behavior modification
* Brainwashing
* Manipulation
* Propaganda
* Recruit training
* Religious indoctrination
* Self-deception
* Socialization

External links

* [ Students for Academic Freedom]
* [ Overcoming Religious Indoctrination] Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
* [ Habermas and the Problem of Indoctrination] Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Education

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Indoctrination — In*doc tri*na tion, n. The act of indoctrinating, or the condition of being indoctrinated; instruction in the rudiments and principles of any science or system of belief; information. Sir T. Browne. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • indoctrination — index discipline (training), education, guidance, instruction (teaching), propaganda Burton s Legal Thesaurus …   Law dictionary

  • indoctrination — (n.) 1640s, noun of action from INDOCTRINATE (Cf. indoctrinate) …   Etymology dictionary

  • indoctrination — n. indoctrination against; in; with * * * in with indoctrination against …   Combinatory dictionary

  • indoctrination — indoctrinate ► VERB ▪ cause to accept a set of beliefs uncritically through repeated instruction. DERIVATIVES indoctrination noun indoctrinator noun. ORIGIN originally in the sense «teach or instruct»: from French endoctriner, from doctrine… …   English terms dictionary

  • indoctrination — noun see indoctrinate …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • indoctrination — See indoctrinate. * * * …   Universalium

  • indoctrination — noun a) The act of indoctrinating, or the condition of being indoctrinated b) Instruction in the rudiments and principles of any science or belief system; information …   Wiktionary

  • indoctrination — Synonyms and related words: absorption and regurgitation, agitprop, alienation, brainwashing, catechization, conditioning, corruption, counterindoctrination, dictation, imbuement, implantation, impregnation, impression, inculcation, infixation,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • indoctrination — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. propagandism, instruction, brainwashing; see education 1 , persuasion 1 , training …   English dictionary for students

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