Torture Produces False Memories and Bad Intel
September 22, 2009 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Torturing the brain (PDF). Extreme pain and stress can actually impair a person's ability to tell the truth. [Via]
posted by homunculus (28 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
look, if you just told the truth to begin with, we wouldn't need to torture you into lying.
posted by shmegegge at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hence the term 'tortured reasoning.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Torture Produces... Bad Intel

This explains why my Pentupium Processor keeps overheating.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:04 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Depends on your definition of the "truth". The truth is what I want to hear.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh Lisa, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:12 PM on September 22, 2009


Finally, objective and amoral grounds against the practice of torture!
posted by carsonb at 12:20 PM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


There. Are. Four. Lights.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:28 PM on September 22, 2009 [15 favorites]


What? You are a commie and you hate freedom shut up SHUT UP SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPICAN'THEARYOU
posted by dubitable at 12:38 PM on September 22, 2009


I can't believe that George Bush and Dick Cheney would lie to me about the effectiveness of torture.
posted by Stochastic Jack at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2009


What is amazing to me is that this took some scientists writing up a huge body of existing data in one place for people to report on it and give it attention.

If you have even the most basic knowledge of the physiology of stress, the conclusions are obvious. There are literally hundreds of studies demonstrating the negative effects of severe stress on memory-- going back to the learned helplessness stuff from the 70's.

I've mentioned this research and physiology over and over in my writing on teen boot camp abuses and the parallels between the false confessions there and here ; anyone who talked to a psychologist about torture could have gotten a quote on it. I'm glad this was published but it is really distressing that it had to be to get the media to highlight it.
posted by Maias at 12:57 PM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


But where's the research that shows flaying the skin off children doesn't improve their study habits?
How am I to know the right thing to do?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:03 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The "fog" they reference is very familiar to anyone who practices BDSM. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that a skilled sadist can get anyone to say anything they like.
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, from now on does every prohibition have to be justified to amoral psychopaths? Sure, there's nothing wrong with torture, it's just ineffective!

Not to criticise this research, but I think we're well into the rabbit hole, having gone from "torture is wrong"->"we don't sanction torture, a few bad apples"->"but is this really torture? eh?"->"OK, it's torture, but it gets results".

Is anyone here going to change their view on torturing terrorists because it's ineffective? Would anyone here support it if it was shown to be effective?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:22 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dick Cheney: "So? It still causes extreme pain and stress."
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:23 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, what JohnnyGunn said. If reliable intel is "we had nothing to do with 9/11", some people do not want reliable intel.
Plus the pain and suffering aspect.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:36 PM on September 22, 2009


Brain needles. That'll do the trick.
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on September 22, 2009


I've mentioned this research and physiology over and over in my writing on teen boot camp abuses and the parallels between the false confessions there and here

So you're saying you're against America and you're against helping kids? I see how you are.

Seriously, though, thanks for the link to that article. I find the teen boot camp issue to be really fascinating, and your articles on it are informative as well as brilliantly written.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:33 PM on September 22, 2009


Science? You're giving me science? Terrorists don't care about your liberal science!
posted by Camofrog at 2:57 PM on September 22, 2009


So the people who tell us that they didn't torture, and that the torture, that wasn't carried out, maintained the security and freedom of America - which was also not true to begin with - they were lying?

Who tortures the torturers?
posted by Elmore at 3:19 PM on September 22, 2009


Science? You're giving me science? Terrorists don't care about your liberal science!

Maybe not, but one of the most offensive things (to me, anyway) was that the people who came up with the idea to do these torture sessions actually claimed that "the science" backed them up. They specifically mentioned these learned helplessness studies.

There is also an argument that the torturers were actually performing illegal medical experiments on detainees, particularly by the length of time they kept them awake.
posted by delmoi at 3:26 PM on September 22, 2009


So, from now on does every prohibition have to be justified to amoral psychopaths? Sure, there's nothing wrong with torture, it's just ineffective!

The author of the study has replied to this criticism here:
In an email with ScienceInsider, Metin Basoglu, head of the Trauma Studies section at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London criticized the paper.

’Torture does not work’ type of arguments ignore an important moral question. What if it did work? Would it then have justified its use in the name of ‘national security’ for example? By engaging in these discussions scientists implicitly acknowledge the moral validity of the latter position. Indeed, it is this position that has made possible arguments such as ‘light torture’ being acceptable under some circumstances...International law categorically prohibits torture under all circumstances and that's it! Torture is first and foremost a moral issue and this should always be remembered.
O’Mara replied in an email to ScienceInsider:

The job of the scientist (excuse my pomposity here) is to describe the world as it is. One could generate an infinite number of counterfactuals for the sake of the discussion. However, the moral arguments stand anyway, as does the legal position. I do note (I was allowed only 1500 words) that there are strong ethical and legal objections. But what I want to do in the paper is examine the lay psychology and lay neurobiology which holds that torture is efficacious, and show that the evidence is against the lay position: that Psych 101 classes teach already - extreme and sustained stressors have a deleterious effect on the brain systems supporting memory.

posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Torture is more about sadistic self-indulgence and dumb insistence on a pre-formed opinion than effective intelligence-gathering and strategy; as such, it fits in perfectly with American foreign policy.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:38 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


@wrinkled - It's still nice to knock the last of the legs out from the Jack Bauer pr0nsters. If it could get it through to the CW that torture can only serve to validate the torturers story lines, and has no other function, then it makes things all the clearer that the Folks Who Stovepiped Intelligence were simply taking the world for a ride.

The whole sad affair: pain and stress that manufactured info, ignorance that allowed us to be used as an ATM or tribal score settler swooping people off a continent to Cuba, sensory deprivation that we inflicted on our own citizens that rendered them insane, it looks like it was all for optics and an armchair jockey faux experience of git-r-done.
posted by drowsy at 5:17 PM on September 22, 2009


The best thing about this is that all the proof in the world still won't convince Dick Cheney that he is an evil fuck.
posted by zzazazz at 5:35 PM on September 22, 2009


Wrinkled Stumpskin: "So, from now on does every prohibition have to be justified to amoral psychopaths? Sure, there's nothing wrong with torture, it's just ineffective!

Not to criticise this research, but I think we're well into the rabbit hole, having gone from "torture is wrong"->"we don't sanction torture, a few bad apples"->"but is this really torture? eh?"->"OK, it's torture, but it gets results".


The Overton window has closed on our necks, I fear.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:14 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Elmore, it's the classic "I didn't shoot my wife, and I did it in self defense!" argument. It's got all the angles covered, and it's a bulletproof defense that no lawyer can scratch.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:51 PM on September 22, 2009


Joe Beese, I just wanted to thank you for linking to a clever political euphemism I had never heard of before. I love finding neat, succinct expressions to describe current events and politicians' schemes.

And I do suspect this is part of why Dick Cheney is standing up for torture. He wants it to become a legitimate tactic, possibly because he really does think it is ethical to use it, beyond the obvious impunity for himself and his cronies.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:56 PM on September 22, 2009


This is why I lie to my wife.
posted by elder18 at 9:10 AM on September 23, 2009


« Older Comedian Affion Crockett, most remembered for appe...  |  Researcher John Meyer has devi... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments