In Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: the psychology of persuasion”, he recounts how during the Korean War, Chinese captors were able to get American POW’s to inform on each other. There are, however, no footnotes showing source materials.

They started out by getting the Americans to make easy, small easy negative comments about the US like, “America is not perfect.” Then, over time, ask them to say increasingly negative things. Eventually, relying on the alleged human need to be consistent, the Chinese could get the Americans to inform on each other.

I’m not doubting the conclusions, I just want to know if these stories true. Is there any evidence of this episode?

  • Seems like a better fit for psychology. You're not actually asking the question in the title. Not clear if you are questioning the narrative 9r looking to understand the how. Fairly standard manipulation/psyops techniques as far as I can tell. The N Koreans would have been derelict in duty of they didn't do this.
    – MCW
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 12:28
  • 1
    Look up the Korean War 21 - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… - it discusses in there some of the political indoctrination that went on. Obviously it was successful in their cases. I mention this because I work for the daughter of one of the 21.
    – ed.hank
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 12:49

1 Answer 1


The evidence is covered in the notes at the end of the book if memory serves me well. In this specific case, you'll find one or more references to Edgar Schein's work. (I'm not 100% sure this is the precise reference Cialdini gives in his book, as I gave away my own copy, but you'll most definitely find references at the end of the book to precise literature on the topic.)

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