Hi all! We're running a study examining the differences between cults and non-cults. It would be great if you'd take part! It involves answering a bunch of questions about a group/community/org you are in or used to be in.

In the end, you'll get to see a (very rough) cult score for the group. This study is aimed at helping make our cult score system much more accurate.

Here's the link to participate:



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I wish this list didn't equally weight harms, groundwork for harms, and weirdness.

This makes an exception for religious organizations that a maximum of 10% of income is allowed. This is not a reasonable exception. I answered as if the exception was not present, and encourage others to do the same.

Though it may not have mattered that much; I was surprised how many of the questions got max score. phew.

Will the data be available?

Confidentiality: Any information you provide will not be personally linked back to you. Any personally identifying information will be removed and not published. By participating in this study, you are agreeing to have your anonymized responses and data used for research purposes, as well as potentially used in writeups and/or publications.

Will the names (or other identifying information if it exists, I haven't taken the survey) of the groups evaluated potentially be published? I'm interested in this survey, but only willing to take it if there's a confidentiality assurance for that information, even independent of my PII. (E.g., I might want to take it about a group without potentially contributing to public association between that group and 'being a cult'.)

I grew up in White Christian Evangelical Nationalism, and got a 67% (my memory may be off by a couple of points) score.  

This feels roughly accurate! I've firmly rejected all the beliefs I grew up with, but looking back, we definitely lacked most of the strong central control elements of a cult that tend to manifest themselves when you have a living charismatic founder, but had almost every other level of cultiness to an extreme.

I'm unsure how I feel about the 10% income question - although it captures an important element of control, a lot of cult-like organizations also use something like "time captured" as a control mechanism. A question about this (i.e. what amount of your time is typically used in pursuit of the organization's goals) might be better, or a complementary angle to take.

You may want to mention in the first question asking about cultishness that people will get to revise their initial estimate after seeing the rest of the questions. I discarded and restarted the survey halfway through because I realized your definition was far removed from my initial one. If I'd known about the ability to re-estimate at the end, you'd have another data point. (For reference, my initial number was 25%, which I dropped to 4% on the re-run. The final score ended up being 3%.)

This quiz rated the WoW raiding guild that I was a member of as 7% cult. Hmm. Seems a bit excessive?

The biggest contributor to that score was, I assume, the “current leader is also the founder” question, but… that seems like a crazy criterion. So any organization that anyone ever starts is automatically thereby cult-like…?

Whatever is meant by the term “cult” here, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with what most people mean by said term…

The "current leader is also the founder" is a reasonable characteristic common in cults. Many cult-like religious organizations exist to create power or wealth for the founder or the founder's associates.

However, I suspect that the underlying scoring function is a simple additive model (widespread in psychology) in which each answer contributes a weight toward one of the outcomes. Since this characteristic is most valuable in combination - intensifying other factors that indicate cultishness, it doesn't serve very well in the current framework.

The r/samplesize version of this post needs some edits to match the community expectations.