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Interrogation and TortureIntegrating Efficacy with Law and Morality$
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Steven J. Barela, Mark Fallon, Gloria Gaggioli, and Jens David Ohlin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190097523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190097523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 26 January 2022

Interrogating the Brain

Interrogating the Brain

Torture and the Neuroscience of Humane Interrogation

(p.197) 7 Interrogating the Brain
Interrogation and Torture

Shane O’Mara

Oxford University Press

Can torture be studied as a biomedical problem? I contend that it most certainly can. Torture can be approached as a biomedical problem in a variety of ways. Torture can be examined in terms of its consequences (e.g., in torture patients); torture can be modeled, using special populations (e.g., elite soldiers) undergoing particular training and combat regimes; torture can be treated deductively, in an analytic fashion, by investigating the consequences of stressors focused on shared aspects of neuropsychological function. Predictions can be made, based on contemporary models of the effects of stress on neurocognitive function, and outcomes tested in differing populations. It is an epistemic mistake to think that torture can only be approached using randomized-control trial methodologies, as this misunderstands the nature of empirical-deductive science. Torture is a demonstrably poor truth-seeking practice, for reasons rooted deep in our shared psychology and neurobiology. Besides being morally abhorrent and manifestly illegal, torture is a demonstrable failure on its own terms. The extreme stressors employed during torture negatively affect the integrated psychobiological functioning of our brains and bodies. Hence the intelligence yield from torture both in recent experience, and historically, has typically been very poor. Finally, I examine outdated ideas regarding human behavior, but which live on in practice (“zombie” ideas). I conclude with a discussion of the centrality of the behavioral and brain sciences as evolving research domains central to solving the problem of reliably and ethically gathering information from other human beings, with a focus on the importance of evidence-based policy formation.

Keywords:   torture, neuroscience, deductive/comparative epistemology, zombie ideas, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, neuropsychobiological model, hyporesponsive cortex, memory

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