The Canadian Psychological Association held its 69th Annual Convention last weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The History and Philosophy of Psychology Section made a strong showing with a number of very interesting presentations.
The one talk that stood out in particular, at least to me, was presented first thing Saturday morning by the very dynamic speaker Dr. Richard Brown. The talk, entitled “The X-38 Project: Donald O. Hebb and the study of perceptual isolation,” examined the evidence surrounding Donald Hebb‘s possible involvement with the CIA.
Brown’s talk responded particularly to the accusations made against Hebb by Alfred W. McCoy in A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror (AHP reported on this book back in January). Going over an enormous amount of previously-sealed documents, some only recently made available, Brown argued that Hebb never worked for the CIA nor was the CIA particularly interested in Hebb’s work until after much of it was completed. Though Brown concluded with the disclaimer that no document he has “yet” to see leads him to believe there is a connection, the presentation was thoroughly convincing that no connection existed between Hebb and the CIA.
A lecture by Alfred McCoy about the history of psychological torture by covert services and the military in the US has just been been posted on YouTube. McCoy, a U. Wisconsin professor of history, is the author of the 2006 book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror. He has also authored books on the international heroin trade and on the Australian underworld.
McCoy became significant to historians of psychology when he claimed in A Question of Torture that Donald Hebb’s sensory deprivation research and Stanley Milgram’s obedience research had been funded by the CIA, and that they were part of the CIA’s half-century of effort to develop and apply effective techniques of “no-touch” psychological torture that would evade the prohibitions of the Geneva Conventions Continue reading Short History of Psychological Torture