‘ Mind Control’ from 1796 to the Internet: Vaughan Bell, Cara Maiden Antonio Mu ñoz, Venu Reddy [email_address] Dept of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry Implications for the Diagnosis of Delusions
Delusions and the history of influencing machines.
Do reports of mind control on the internet show any evidence of psychopathology ?
Do these reports show evidence of an underlying social structure? A social network analysis.
Implications for diagnosis of delusions.
A note on the influence of the internet on psychopathology.
What is a delusion ?
The DSM defines a delusion as a belief that is:
False, based on incorrect inference about external reality.
Firmly sustained, despite what almost everybody else believes...
… and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary
The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture.
Falsity : Delusions may not be false ( Jones, 1999 ) or even falsifiable ( Young, 2000 )
Firmly sustained : Conviction in delusional beliefs may vary day-to-day ( Myin-Germeys et al, 2001 )
Despite obvious evidence to the contrary : Many normal beliefs show this pattern ( Kuhn, 1962 )
Not held by culture or subculture : No clear criteria for determining this ( Bell, Halligan and Ellis, 2003 ).
Cultural / Sub-cultural Beliefs
Leeser and O’Donohue (1999) suggest it is possible that sub-cultures could be based on delusional beliefs, citing cases like Charles Manson and Jim Jones.
These sort of quasi-religious beliefs are quite weak examples and would rarely be considered delusional by working clinicians.
Is it possible to find a sub-culture based on distinctly delusional beliefs, against the stated DSM criteria?
Camberwell Grove, 2006
Camberwell Grove, 1776
James Tilly Matthews
1796, Matthews , a Welsh tea merchant, resident in Camberwell, interrupts a speech by Lord Liverpool in the House of Commons,
is arrested, and taken to Bow Street Magistrates.
He claims that he is on a top-secret mission to secure peace between France and Britain.
That the authorities were out to stop.
And in particular, he was under assault by teams of ‘magnetic spies’ using an ‘air loom’ to control him.
James Tilly Matthews
“ I am brain-connected to a machine that can broadcast pictures to my eyes and voices to my mind, and I experience being fully controlled from head to toe frequently .”
Matthews was admitted to Bethlem Hospital as a pauper.
Much legal wranglings ensued as his family tried to get him released.
Just because you’re paranoid…
Illustrations of Madness
The Air Loom
The Influencing Machine
He noted that such delusional devices take the form of a diabolical machine, just outside the technical understanding of the subject.
Always operated by the subject’s enemies who set out to persecute them.
Tausk (1933) wrote a seminal paper ‘ On the Origin of the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia ’
Modern day ‘Air Looms’ “ It feels like the people who assault me have some replica of myself, electronically connected to me. By remote control, they are able to hurt me - in various ways - by doing something to their replica (or electronic doll) of me. They also use 'voice-to-skull technology, emf, elf, microwave radiation and other similar bodily, brain-invasive & abuse technology .” taken from Internet, 2003
Jay (2003) has noted the similarity between historical accounts of ‘influencing machines’ and many which appear on the internet.
People describing such experiences are often part of an online ‘mind control’ community.
Which would be at odds with the DSM definition.
We conducted a study which set out to test this by:
Rating text to establish the presence of psychopathology.
Testing for a social network to establish the presence of a community based around potentially delusional beliefs.
Used the web to collect source material.
10 independently published personal accounts of mind control experiences were collected from the internet.
These were compared with a same number of independently published accounts of depression , cancer and being stalked .
To control for mental illness, clinical involvement / trauma and persecution.
Each account was blind-rated by three independent psychiatrists for presence of:
The raters had full agreement (Kappa = 1) that ‘mind control accounts’ reflected delusional beliefs.
‘ Ex-military neighbours’ and ‘husband’s cohorts’ using ‘recently declassified technology’
‘ Rings of sex deviates’ (sic) using ‘high energy radiation’ technology
Royal Canadian Mounted Police using a ‘telepathic amplifier that works with microwaves’
‘ Freemasonic intelligence agencies’ using ‘frequency weapons’
‘ Police’ using a ‘brain implant’
‘ Implantable controlling chip’
‘ Dutch government’ using a ‘network of transmitters’
‘ Politicians and journalists’ using ‘satellite surveillance and harassment technologies’
‘ Bad Guys’ using ‘psychotronics’ and ‘microwaves’
‘ Warsaw Pact Military Research’ using ‘hypnosis and electromagnetic waves’
Self-report services contact Mind Control Contact with Psychiatric Services Cancer Depression Being Stalked 7 10 4 2
This suggests that mind control accounts are associated with psychosis-like experiences.
This may be interesting in terms of anthropology but has no implications for psychiatric diagnosis.
But, according to the DSM, people with delusional beliefs should, by definition, not belong to a community based on the content of those beliefs.
Can we find evidence of a community based upon potentially delusional beliefs on the internet ?
Social Network Analysis
SNA is a tool for identifying structures in social networks based on relations between components.
An SN is conceptualised as a set of ‘nodes’ and ‘links’, representing social actors and relationships - such as affiliation or information exchange.
Jackson (2004) and Wellman (2001) have argued that web links are likely to reflect underlying social structure.
A view which has been supported by reviews of the hyperlink analysis literature Park (2003) and Park and Thelwall (2004).
The network was sampled by the use of ‘snowball sampling’ (Goodman, 1961)
Each initially identified report was designated as a node in the network.
Each link to an external site was designated as a network connection.
Each external site was also designated as a network node.
Compared sampled mind control network to...
A randomly generated network with the same number of nodes and connections (Lusseau, 2003) .
Known social networks from the literature:
Computer conf (Freeman & Freeman, 1979)
Ham radio (Killworth and Bernard, 1976)
Karate club (Zachary, 1977)
Random Network Layout using 3D Fruchterman-Reingold algorithm
Mind Control Network Layout using 3D Fruchterman-Reingold algorithm
Distance ( d ) the mean length of shortest path through the network.
Wasserman and Faust (1994): Smaller d indicates quicker information transfer between individuals and greater group cohesion
d Computer conference Mind control 1.57 1.36 Ham radio 2.03 Karate club 2.41 Random net 4.53
Clustering coefficient ( C ) , a measure of the likelihood that two associates of a node are associates themselves.
Watts and Strogatz (1999): A higher C indicates a greater ‘cliquishness’.
Network Clustering C Computer conference Mind control 0.16 0.75 Ham radio 0.69 Karate club 0.59 Random net 0.01
Group Degree Centralisation
Group degree centralisation ( C D ) , measure of group dispersion or how network links focus on a specific node or nodes.
Freeman (1979): High C D thought to be an important structural attribute of social networks.
C D Computer conference Mind control 49.6% 49.3% Ham radio 48.8% Karate club 40.0% Random net 1.3%
Network Results Summary
The mind control network looks very similar to a real social network.
Particularly, the smaller distance / higher clustering than random network implies it is a ‘small world’ network.
The effect of this can perhaps be seen in common themes which permeate the content of the sampled accounts.
Journal of Applied Physiology, 17(4), 689-692.
For example, Frey (1963) is frequently cited
As is the CIA’s MKULTRA programme
Usually cited as evidence for the reality of the authors’ experiences.
Indeed, several authors identify with ‘anti-mind control’ campaigns and lobby groups.
Importantly, it is not being suggested that everyone with such interests is psychotic.
Although the authors sampled here are likely to be.
The sampled reports of ‘mind control’ experiences are likely to be significantly influenced by psychotic experience.
The organisation of these web sites suggests the existence of a community based on these beliefs which directly challenges the diagnostic criteria for a delusion.
The internet is likely to have an increasing effect on the presentation, aetiology and prognosis of psychopathology.
Internet and Psychopathology
As well as psychosis, the internet is now becoming recognised as an influence on:
Suicide ( Rajagopal, 2004 )
Anorexia / bulimia : ‘pro-ana’ etc ( Fox et al., 2005 )
Suggesting it should be of increasing interest to researchers and clinicians.
And could mediate how people engage with services.