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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When and why we torture: A review of psychology research.

Shannon C. Houck & Meredith Repke
Translational Issues in Psychological Science
September 2017


There is an ongoing debate about the treatment of detainees, torture use, and torture efficacy. Missing from this debate, however, is empirical research on the psychology of torture. When and why do people justify the use of torture, and what influences torture endorsement? Psychological science has a valuable opportunity to address the applied problem of torture by further investigating when and why people justify its use. Our goals are to (a) contribute to the public debate about torture with empirical arguments, and (b) inform and promote the inclusion of psychological expertise in the development of policy related to torture. With those goals in mind, this article provides an overview of the psychology research on torture to date, and discusses how this research translates to the torture debate and policy-making. Further, we highlight the need for conducting additional empirical research on torture’s ineffectiveness, as well as the need for researchers to engage in the public discussion of issues related to torture.

Here’s how the article ends:

If popular opinion dictates that torture is justifiable in under the right conditions, torture will continue, regardless of policies or ethics. Psychologists’ input is relevant to many topics, however the highest stakes are at risk when it comes to the issue of torture, making the input of psychological researchers of the utmost importance.

The article is here, available for download.