Learn About Elder Abuse
The "discovery" of undue influence as a significant factor in elder abuse has revolutionized thinking about how people fall prey to "artful manipulators" and what service providers can do help prevent exploitive relationships. The resources on this page provide an overview of undue influence and how it is being addressed by the criminal and civil justice systems.
Resources on Undue Influence
- Hornswoggled? An
interview with Margaret Singer on undue influence. I interviewed Margaret
Singer, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and emeritus
adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley,
in 1996 for nexus, a publication of the National Committee for the Prevention
of Elder Abuse (NCPEA). Dr. Singer was a nationally renowned expert on
cults, brainwashing, persuasion, and undue influence.
Influence and Written Documents: Psychological Aspects. This article
by Margaret Singer was originally printed in the Journal of Questioned
Document Examination, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1992, the official publication
of the Independent Association of Questioned Document Examiners, Inc.
is reprinted on the website of the International Cultic Studies Association
(ICSA). In it, Dr. Singer describes social influence techniques, tactics
of thought reform, and responses and behavior found in other high-control,
intense influence situations ranging from the Stockholm syndrome to
abused women and the methods of corrupt caretakers. The case of the "evil
nurse" is discussed to illustrate these factors. In addition the
following conditions of influence are discussed in their relationship
to undue influence: isolation, creating a siege mentality, dependency,
sense of powerlessness, sense of fear and vulnerability, and being
Loss for the Family Field: The Death of Margaret T. Singer. This
collection of brief tributes to Margaret Singer appears on the website
International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)
Influence in Contract and Probate Law. The article by Abraham Nievod,
Ph.D., J.D of San Francisco was originally printed in the
Journal of Questioned Document Examination, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1992, the official
publication of the Independent Association of Questioned Document
Inc. It is reprinted on the website of the International Cultic
Studies Association (ICSA).This article outlines the history of undue
and the law, definitions of undue influence, judicial considerations
in deciding undue influence cases, and the types of cases in which
document examiners may be called upon to testify. Undue influence cases most
appear in contract or probate law. Undue influence cases may occur
in relationships based upon trust and confidence, family members or friends,
or within the context of totalistic groups.
Aspects of Undue Influence. This article by Ira Daniel Turkat,
a psychologist who has served on the faculty at the Vanderbilt
University School of Medicine and the University of Florida College
of Medicine, is on the website of the American Bar Association. In it, Dr.
Trukat describes how undue influence usurps people’s free
will and presents a model for understanding the psychological variables
can produce the improper substitution of one person’s will
for that of another.
a Science of Social Influence Be Used to Stop Economic Fraud Crimes? This
article by Anthony Pratkanis, an experimental social psychologist and
the founding editor of a new academic journal, Social
Influence is based on testimony before the
United States Senate Special Committee on Aging on July 27, 2005. It
appears on APA (American Psychological Association) Online.
- Hall, R. C., Hall, R. C., & ;13(2):, M. J. C. (2005). Exploitation
of the elderly: Undue influence as a form of elder abuse. Clinical
- Naimark, D. (2001). Financial exploitation of the elderly: The evaluation
of mental capacity and undue influence. American Journal of Forensic
Psychiatry, 22(3), 5-19
- Quinn, M. J. (2002). Undue influence and elder abuse: Recognition
and intervention strategies. Geriatric Nursing, 23(1), 11-16
- Bennett Blum, M.D., is a physician specializing in forensic and geriatric
psychiatry. His website, www.bennettblummd.com provides
information on mental capacity and undue influence and tools
that he has developed for evaluating them.
From My Blog:
Return to Learn About Elder Abuse
- Getting Our Minds (and Laws) Around Undue Influence. Friday, October 31, 2008. Undue influence. We know it when we see it, and those of us in elder abuse prevention see it often: elders who are ill, lonesome, isolated, impaired, or grieving being persuaded to give away assets, sometimes homes and life savings, to new acquaintances, suitors, family members, or even cunning cons in other countries. They use various devices--trust documents, powers of attorney, wills, sweepstake offers, bogus charities, or quickie marriages--but the results are the same: getting vulnerable elders to do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Read more…
- Undue Influence: There Oughta be a Law (or Two). Monday, March 24, 2008. When undue influence was “discovered” as a significant factor in elder abuse a decade ago, it immediately struck a chord with advocates and service providers who'd been seeing the phenomenon for years. They may not have had a term for it, but they knew it when they saw it. But translating undue influence into law, or more specifically, translating it into an infraction of the law, hasn’t been Read more…
- PPS on Undue Influence: The Civil Side (December 14, 2006)
For the season of giving...
Caregivers in California who receive last-minute bequests from those they
care for are presumed to have exercised undue influence, even if they were
friends. Thatís because of a controversial 1993 law that was recently upheld
on appeal (Bernard v. Foley). Probate Code Section 21350 was enacted following
that involved an estate-planning attorney who named himself and his family
as fiduciaries for, and beneficiaries of, clientsí estates. To see the full post, click on PPS on Undue Influence: The Civil Side.
- Postscript on Undue Influence is Not a Crime (December 04, 2006)
Last week, Melissa McKowan, prosecutor in the undue influence case I described
in my last post, told me that the California Supreme Court has denied a request
to review the appellate courtís reversal, so the case canít be retried. To see the full post, click on Postscript on Undue Influence is Not a Crime.
- Undue Influence is Not a Crime (November 20, 2006)
So said a California appeals court last month in ruling on the case of
a 78-year-old San Mateo man who wrote over $660,000 in checks to a friend
To see the full post, click on Undue Influence is Not a Crime.
Distance Undue Influence (June 20, 2006)
Last week, San Diego prosecutor Paul Greenwood
posted a message to NCEA’s list serve about an “articulate,
coherent and charming” elderly woman who’d sent over $50,000
to telemarketers in Canada despite being warned repeatedly that they were
crooks. She described feeling “hypnotized.” It reminded me
of when Dennis Morris, a San Francisco prosecutor, came to a meeting of
our multidisciplinary team more than a decade ago and asked if anyone
knew of an expert in brainwashing. To see the full post, click on Long Distance Undue Influence
For more on promising practices and developments in the field, visit
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