Why Torture Doesn't Work by Shane O'Mara
The Neuroscience of Interrogation

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O’Mara capably translates the experimental evidence into accessible language for the general reader and, occasionally, into simple domestic tests.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

Torture is banned because it is cruel and inhumane. But as Shane O’Mara writes in this account of the human brain under stress, another reason torture should never be condoned is because it does not work the way torturers assume it does.

In countless films and TV shows such as Homeland and 24, torture is portrayed as a harsh necessity. If cruelty can extract secrets that will save lives, so be it. CIA officers and others conducted torture using precisely this justification. But does torture accomplish what its defenders say it does? For ethical reasons, there are no scientific studies of torture. But neuroscientists know a lot about how the brain reacts to fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, and immersion in freezing water, all tools of the torturer’s trade. These stressors create problems for memory, mood, and thinking, and sufferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable―and, for intelligence purposes, even counterproductive. As O’Mara guides us through the neuroscience of suffering, he reveals the brain to be much more complex than the brute calculations of torturers have allowed, and he points the way to a humane approach to interrogation, founded in the science of brain and behavior.

Torture may be effective in forcing confessions, as in Stalin’s Russia. But if we want information that we can depend on to save lives, O’Mara writes, our model should be Napoleon: “It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile.”

 

About Shane O'Mara

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Shane O'Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College, Dublin, and Director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.
 
Published November 30, 2015 by Harvard University Press. 333 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Why Torture Doesn't Work
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Aug 16 2015

A catalog of the scientific evidence of how torture is at best ineffective, usually counterproductive, and always inhumane...Everything you never wanted to know—but probably should—about interrogation techniques and outcomes.

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Giovanni Frazzetto on Feb 05 2016

O’Mara capably translates the experimental evidence into accessible language for the general reader and, occasionally, into simple domestic tests.

Read Full Review of Why Torture Doesn't Work: The... | See more reviews from Financial Times

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