I dont get BugGirls jokes about academia being a cult. I mean I get it, Ive heard story after story... But I have no personal experience with this stuff myself. (BugGirl-- this is in jest, I like your post!)
1. Authoritarian structure
Well, someone has to be in charge. I wouldnt call my boss authoritarian, though. He makes the calls, but he encourages me to think for myself and to speak my mind. Actually, Im fairly certain he would have fired me long ago if I didnt continually question him. And Ive never been any more frustrated with him than I have been with my best friends. Everyone is frustrating at times, but its not a core feature of his personality and our interactions.
Bleh, and an authoritarian PI is short-sighted-- Sure you will get some publications out if you tell everyone what to do all the time, but youre also known for the quality of PhDs you turn out. Maybe its just my martial arts background thinking, but the students are a reflection of the mentor.
2. Isolation from society and use of mind control techniques
*shrug* Im living in Oklahoma. My job is not the cause of my isolation from 'society' :P
Peer Group Pressure - Suppressing doubt and resistance to new ideas by exploiting the need to belong.I think grad school encourages the opposite of peer pressure! It encourages being contrary (which is why I love it so much)! I love going to journal club, where its like a contest of who can take the nicest little papers and rip them to sheds! LOVE IT! Youve got to learn that in grad school! If you cant critique your own work, someone else will do it for you, and its never pretty. And its better that a friend/classmate critiques your work before your adviser or committee does!
Confusing Doctrine - Encouraging blind acceptance through complex lectures on an incomprehensible doctrine.
Verbal Abuse, Sleep Deprivation and fatigue - Creating disorientation and vulnerability by prolonging mental and physical activity and withholding adequate rest and sleep.
Dress Codes - Removing individuality by demanding conformity to the group dress code.
Financial Committment - Achieving increased dependence on the group
Controlled Approval - Maintaining vulnerability and confusion by alternately rewarding and punishing similar actions.
Bossman just locked me out of the lab for a week to go on vacation, and came close to calling my parents to force me to go to the doctor during my Spring Adventure. Its not profitable to him for me to be sick, tired, stressed-out, and disoriented.
And my lab... We're the bums of the department. 'Dressing-up' days means wearing jeans without holes in them (relatively clean). Ive recently discovered Old Navy polo shirts, $10 each, that allow me to dress cheaply and not be so bum-ish (normally its tye-dye or free company T-shirts). Im working with radiation and biohazardous materials every day! Spill some P32 on a $200 pair of jeans, and theyre gone forever... not that you dont have other things to worry about if youve spilled P32 on your jeans...
3. Control of the environment
Another reason my boss rocks-- He has always made it perfectly clear that whatever I want to do is what I want to do. Look, we all appreciate a PhD on the other end of the phone when the damn AutoMACS screws up. I dont care if you want to work 9-5 with an R&D company. But I want to rule the world have my own lab and rule the world do research forever, and my boss supports that. I didnt go to med school just because my parents wanted me to*, Im certainly not going to try to get a PI position just because my boss might want me to. Silly.
Geeze with all the stories I hear about sexual harassment and impossible/invisible research mentors and cult research clubs... Im a lucky bastard.
(Hat tip to Ian)
* My parents didnt *want me to go to med school* I wanted to go to med school, and they supported that.