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Organized around a charismatic leader who demands unquestioning obedience, cults are strongly cohesive groups of people who are committed to a transcendent worldview that they believe is morally superior. They are rigidly authoritarian, and they are very effective in using common methods of social influence to achieve their goals. Because many people argue that cult influence is coercive and destructive to the psychological well-being and individuality of members, it is important for group researchers to examine the ways in which cults are typical and atypical of other groups.

Cults are not a new phenomenon, but the attention they have received has increased dramatically in the past several decades. Many scholars attribute the presence of cults in the United States, for example, to the culture of change ...

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