Janja Lalich

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Janja Lalich
OrganizationCalifornia State University, Chico
Notable work
Bounded Choice

Janja Lalich is an American author and professor of sociology who focuses on cult groups, specializing in charismatic authority, power relations, ideology, coersion and social control.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Lalich has a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California.[1] Beginning in the 1970s Lalich spent around ten years as part of a radical Marxist-Leninist group, the Democratic Workers Party in California. She later came to believe the group was itself a cult. Lalich recalls that during her time in the group she stored questions and doubts in the back of her mind, unable to express them.[2] Lalich became a high ranking member of the group working long hours with little contact outside the immediate members. She claims ex-members were harassed and attacked and she felt increasingly threatened. Eventually the group dissolved and she was able to leave.[3]


She is currently a professor in the sociology department of California State University, Chico[4] and has contributed several articles to academic journals on the subject of cults and religions.[5] After her experiences in a radical political group she calls a cult, she founded the Center for Research on Influence and Control. In her work she describes the main descriptors of a totalistic control group, or cult: "They “espouse an all-encompassing belief system,” “exhibit excessive devotion to the leader,” “avoid criticism of the group and its leader,” and “feel disdain for non-members.”"[6]

Lalich went onto write several books on the subject of cults and religions, including her best known book, Bounded Choice (2004) based on the Heaven's Gate cult.[7] As a recognised authority in the field, Lalich has also appeared in several court cases as an expert witness on coercive or undue influence.[8]

In 2007 Lalich was awarded the Margaret L. Singer Award: "for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion, undue influence, and psychological manipulation" by the International Cultic Studies Association.[9][10]


  • Tobias, Madeleine Landau; Lalich, Janja (May 1994). Captive Hearts, Captive Minds : Freedom and recovery from cults and abusive relationships. Alameda, CA: Hunter House. ISBN 978-0897931458.
  • Singer, Margaret Thaler; Lalich, Janja (1 March 1995). Cults in Our Midst. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0787900519.
  • Singer, Margaret Thaler; Lalich, Janja (27 September 1996). "Crazy" Therapies : What are they? Do they work?. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0787902780.
  • Zablocki, Benjamin; Robbins, Thomas, eds. (1 November 2001). Misunderstanding Cults : Searching for objectivity in a controversial field. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 123–155. ISBN 978-0802043733.
  • Lalich, Janja A. (15 September 2004). Bounded Choice : True believers and charismatic cults ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 978-0520231948.
  • Lalich, Janja; Tobias, Madeleine (17 August 2006). Take Back Your Life : Recovering from cults and abusive relationships. Berkeley, Calif.: Bay Tree Pub. ISBN 978-0972002158.
  • Lalich, Janja; McLaren, Karla (2017). Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over. Routledge. ISBN 9781138239746.


  1. ^ a b Zablocki, Benjamin; Robbins, Thomas, eds. (1 November 2001). Misunderstanding Cults : Searching for objectivity in a controversial field. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 522. ISBN 978-0802043733.
  2. ^ a b Wollan, Malia. "How to Get Someone Out of a Cult". New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  3. ^ Paoletta, Rae. "Women share their real-life horror stories of surviving a cult". Revelist. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Campus Directory". CSU, Chico. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Janja Lalich". ResearchGate. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  6. ^ Al-sibai, Noor. "Expert explains how Trump's GOP has turned into a cult". Raw Story. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  7. ^ Taylor, Laurie. "Thinking Allowed: Charismatic cults". BBC Radio. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  8. ^ Berman, Sarah. "Courts Are Rarely Kind to 'Brainwashed' Victims". Vice. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ Ashcraft, W. Michael (2018). A Historical Introduction to the Study of New Religious Movements. Routledge. pp. Chapter 4. ISBN 1351670832. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Awards". International Cultic Studies Association. Retrieved 4 October 2018.