Popular Science

Cult leaders like Charles Manson exploit this basic psychological need

Know what to look out for.
Charles Manson

Charles Manson, pictured during his trial.

AP Photo

Charles Manson, who died November 19, famously attracted a coterie of men and women to do his bidding, which included committing a string of murders in the late-1960s.

Manson is undoubtedly a fascinating figure with a complicated life story. But as someone who studies human cognition, I’m more interested in the members of the Manson “family” like Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, and how they become drawn to leaders of cult-like organizations in the first place.

The illusion of comfort

Emotional comfort is central to

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