Tag Archives: torture

Winter 2018 JHBS: Ida Frye on Autism, Operative Psychology in Germany, and More

The Winter 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the Peace Corps in the Philippines, the work of Ida Frye on autism, and “operative psychology” in the German Democratic Republic. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The creation of a postcolonial subject: The Chicago and Ateneo de Manila schools and the Peace Corps in the Philippines, 1960–1970,” by Christa Wirth. Abstract:

In the 1950s and 1960s scholars from the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila created social scientific knowledge that helped establish the Peace Corps as a Cold War institution in the Philippines. Central were the social scientists at the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila University who established a knowable postcolonial subject: “the Filipino,” which resulted from their research on Philippine values. In this context, the Ateneo/Chicago social scientists developed the “SIR,” the “smooth interpersonal relation” model that entails the notion that Filipinos and Filipinas particularly valued this nonconfrontational skill set among people. The SIR model was taught by social science experts to early Peace Corps volunteers as they prepared for their assignments in the Philippines. The article shows how the SIR model could cause distress and confusion as it was applied by Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines.

“Rethinking the origins of autism: Ida Frye and the unraveling of children’s inner world in the Netherlands in the late 1930s,” by Annemieke Van Drenth. Abstract: Continue reading Winter 2018 JHBS: Ida Frye on Autism, Operative Psychology in Germany, and More

CBC’s “The Secrets of Oak Ridge” and the Difficulties of Journalistic History

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has just aired a piece on the controversial history of Oak Ridge, the forensic mental health division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene, Ontario. (The Oak Ridge building officially closed in 2014, but Waypoint continues to house Ontario’s only maximum security forensic hospital.) “The Secrets of Oak Ridge” aired March 1st, 2016 as part of the CBC’s national news program The National and is described simply as: “Allegations of treatment with LSD, sleep deprivation, torture. The painful legacy of an Ontario psychiatric facility. Reg Sherren reports.”

The 15-minute piece, driven by the narrative of one man’s experiences in the institution in the 1970s, describes some of the treatment practices at the institution at this time and questions the ethics of those involved. A provocative indictment of the institution and its doctors, the segment unfortunately lacks any counterpoint regarding the ethics of the therapeutic practices employed at the hospital. Absent any discussion of the greater context of psychiatry at this time, the treatment of patients at Oak Ridge is presented as unequivocally cruel, unusual, and unethical. This is certainly the experience of the former patient featured in “The Secrets of Oak Ridge.”

And from our present-day vantage point we may well feel similarly. Taking the context of 1960s and 70s psychiatry into account, however, the ethics, or lack thereof, of the program are less clearcut. At the time, Oak Ridge’s use of LSD and other psychopharmaceuticals – alongside other therapies – was seen as a positive form of treatment and a promising advance in the field. Where the CBC segment is most successful is in presenting the patient’s voice, as he recounts his experiences at the hospital. Respecting this patient’s experience, while putting that experience into historical context is a fine balancing act, one, unfortunately, “The Secrets of Oak Ridge” does not attempt. Contextualizing these treatment practices does not mean invalidating the experiences of this or any other patient, but it is necessary for a more complete understanding of what transpired at this hospital in this moment in time.

As we’ve reported previously on AHP, the recently launched Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit produced by former AHP contributor Jennifer Bazar, is an excellent and under-utilized source for this much needed information. Details and fuller context for the social therapy program discussed in the CBC segment can be found on this page of the site. (It should also be noted that a class action lawsuit against the hospital and the program’s doctors, on behalf several patients, is as yet undecided.)

APA out of Guantánamo

Well it’s been a long haul, but it’s official. The Pentagon has ended their use of psychologists in the Guantánamo Bay prison.

The post-Hoffman Report AGM in Toronto this past summer saw the association executive taken to task by the membership for ongoing failure to enforce increased ethical requirements initiated in 2008’s Petition Resolution.

The media should be praised for contributing external pressure through exposure of the association’s collusion with  American governmental agencies in ways that violate international human rights agreements as established by the UN, including interrogation programs run by the CIA under the Bush administration. As reported in the NY Times,  a FBI-led High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, founded under the Obama admin, is the only part of the current government to have expressed concern over the APA’s new adherence to their own policies. Here’s hoping that doesn’t prove to be cause for real concern moving forward.

The Times’ piece also succinctly covers the association’s internal climate re. this most recent turn of events:

Some current and former military psychologists have been critical of the A.P.A. ban, saying it is so broadly written that it could make it difficult for them to work professionally in almost any national security setting. But advocates of the ban say it had to be written in a way that would close what they believe were longstanding loopholes in the organization’s ethics guidance.

Below please find a reverse chronology of our extensive APA torture coverage from throughout the era in which these developments occurred (It is our sincere wish to be able to end the series with this post):

History and the Hoffman Report: A Round-Up

Chances are you, like us, have been following the fall out from the American Psychological Association’s Hoffman Report, which details how the organization colluded with the United States government to ensure psychologists remained part of its torture program. While there are a ton of opinion pieces floating around in the wake of the report, we thought we’d highlight a few pieces that take a particularly historical view on the current situation.

Over on the Hidden Persuaders blog, part of a project on Cold War era brainwashing efforts, Marcia Holmes has written “What we’re reading now: The APA report.” Holmes details the events leading up to the Hoffman Report and situates psychology’s involvement in torture in relation to the emergence of “operational psychology.” The fundamental tension between “operational psychology” and ethics, Holmes argues, may never be resolved. Read the full piece online here.

BBC Radio program Witness has produced an episode on “CIA Mind Control Experiments” in the 1950s. While this piece is not directly about the Hoffman Report, it documents  the long history of relations between psychology and the CIA:

In the 1950s the CIA started attempting to brainwash psychiatric patients. They wanted to develop methods which could be used against enemies in the Cold War. Hear from one man whose father was experimented on in a Canadian psychiatric hospital.

The full 10-minute episode can be heard online here.

Finally historian Laura Stark, writing in Inside Higher Ed, explains “Why Ethics Codes Fail.” Stark, having previously written about the first ethics code adopted by the APA in 1973, argues that,

The APA’s current ethics mess is a problem inherent to its method of setting professional ethics policy and a problem that faces professional organizations more broadly. Professions’ codes of ethics are made to seem anonymous, dropped into the world by some higher moral authority. But ethics codes have authors. In the long term, the APA’s problems will not be solved by repeating the same process that empowers a select elite to write ethics policy, then removes their connection to it.

All ethics codes have authors who work to erase the appearance of their influence. Personal interests are inevitable, if not unmanageable, and it may be best for the APA — and other professional groups — to keep the link between an ethics policy and its authors. Take a new lesson from the Hippocratic oath by observing its name. The APA should make its ethics policies like most other papers that scientists write: give the code of ethics a byline.

Read the full piece online here.

If there are other historically focused responses to the Hoffman Report that we’ve missed please feel free to add them in the comments!

APA Denounces CIA Psychologist

James MitchellI think this counts as an event worthy of breaking AHP’s summer silence.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has come out in favor of stripping James Mitchell of his license to practice. Mitchell (pictured right) is one of the psychologists who worked for the CIA developing and applying controversial “enhanced” interrogation techniques that were used against terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison and other “black sites” that the CIA maintains around the world. An Associated Press article about the APA’s actions can be found here.

The is move surprising because the APA has been heavily criticized both from within its membership and without for being evasive in efforts to forbid its members from participating in such activities. First it issued directives with ambiguous wording. When the membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of a more direct statement against torture, the APA Board came under fire for dragging its feet in  implementing the resolution.