Can Trump Torture Without Psychologists? Event as iCalendar


25 January 2017

12 - 1pm

Venue: Building 303, Room G14

Location: Auckland City Campus

Host: School of Psychology

Contact email:

Abstract: Donald Trump, among his many infamous campaign promises, has pledged to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”  Although this pledge appeals to core constituents in his base, it is in fact difficult to carry out a systematic and sustained program of torture without institutional collusion and cooperation by health professionals.  It is true that the War on Terror begun by the Bush Administration after 9/11 managed to sustain a worldwide torture program in spite of institutional resistance from the American medical and psychiatric professions to having their members involved in interrogations.  However, one of the reasons this torture program flourished anyway was because key leaders in the American Psychological Association were willing to find ways to collude with the Department of Defense and the CIA and give psychologists an ethical green light to consult on national security interrogations under Bush Administration protocols.  This collusion provided the necessary health professional participation in the torture program both to give it an air of legality and to minimize torture-related embarrassing incidents that can expose the uselessness and ill intent of most torture programs.  In August 2015, however, at the American Psychological Association convention held in Toronto, Canada, a stunning reversal of policy occurred within the association, and the APA’s Council of Representatives voted 157-1 to remove psychologists from chain-of-command positions at Guantanamo Bay-like settings and to remove them from all national security interrogations.  My talk will discuss some of the background of the APA’s collusion and reversal, and the difficulty that any U.S. president will have reviving a torture program without a critical mass of colluding health professionals.

Biography: Ian Hansen is an Assistant Professor in Behavioral Sciences at York College, City University of New York, with a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. He is the 2017 president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  He also spent five years living in Wellington, New Zealand as a child.  His areas of research interest include political psychology, psychology of religion, moral psychology, cultural psychology and social psychology.  Much of his work focuses on the two-dimensional or multi-dimensional nature of divides often presented as one-dimensional, particularly political divides, which are typically presented as liberal-left vs. conservative-right.  His work also addresses how the correlated inclinations of religiosity and conservatism make opposing predictions of a wide variety of significant religious, political and moral attitudes.