Psychological Techniques

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22 SEPT 93

THE MANIPULATION OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR. Edited by Albert D. Biderman and Herbert Zimmer. (New York and London: John Wiley and Sons. 1961. Pp. 323. $7.95.)

For all its sweeping title, this collection of seven scientific essays is specifically concerned, according to its editors, with "the application of scientific knowledge to . . . the interrogation of an unwilling subject," and it should therefore be like manna to the intelligence interrogator starving for scientific aid. Instead, it is a cruel mirage, for two chief reasons. The first of these is that the several authors, each having in mind some different and undefined concept of what interrogation is, rarely approach what the intelligence interrogator means by the interrogation of a resistant subject. The editors admit that some of "the contributors to this book were not themselves highly conversant with interrogation practises"; the lamentable fact is that they display a range from unrelieved illiteracy to mitigated ignorance about interrogation. The second reason is the lack, which they complacently acknowledge, of virtually any experimental evidence to substantiate their vague extrapolated conclusions.

Writing about "The Physiological State of the Interrogation Subject as it Affects Brain Function," Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. implicitly holds up the interrogation of prisoners of war as typical of all interrogation of resistant subjects. He concludes that "a man is best able to give accurate information when he is in an optimal state of health, rest, comfort, and alertness, and when he is under no threat. This would seem to be the optimal situation for interrogation." Whatever the validity of this statement with respect to a positive interrogation seeking, say, scientific or technical information, it has no application to a counterintelligence interrogation in which the sole initial purpose is to make the interrogatee tell truthfully whether he is or is not a KGB spy. Whatever his state of health, he is not likely to be unable to communicate this simple fact correctly, if he will.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM