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Cushman, P. (2018). The Earthquake That Is the Hoffman Report on Torture: Toward a Re-Moralization of Psychology. Psychoanal. Self. Cxt., 13(4):311-334.

(2018). Psychoanalysis, Self, and Context, 13(4):311-334

Original Article

The Earthquake That Is the Hoffman Report on Torture: Toward a Re-Moralization of Psychology

Philip Cushman, Ph.D.

The Hoffman Report’s findings about the collusion between some senior American Psychological Association (APA) leaders and the Department of Defense about the ethics of psychologists involved in interrogations involving torture were disturbing indeed. But upon reflection, the Report uncovered a problem more serious than just the secret actions of a few. The larger problem is that many members of APA’s Council of Representatives were unable to see through and combat the deceptions of a few leaders, even though some of their activist colleagues were able to do so and did so publicly. At the same time, many psy practitioners, both members and non-members of APA, were uninterested in the topic or ineffective in combating the leaders’ actions.

Why were psychologists so ill-equipped in combatting the strategies of those leaders set on currying favor with the military and intelligence agencies that were involved in carrying out torture in interrogations? The increased scientizing of APA’s understandings of psychology, and thus its accreditation criteria, in combination with the growing societal trend toward neoliberalism, has excluded from graduate curricula fundamentally important subjects for psychology such as history, philosophy, and relational theory. Over the past decades, a vicious cycle of interlocking accreditation procedures for instruction and training was instituted, resulting in graduate education practices that ill-prepared graduates for comprehending the difficult ethical issues that inhere in psychological practice, and in making the right ethical choices. By supplementing scientific psychology courses with the aforementioned humanities-oriented subjects, graduate students could become intellectually sophisticated about and committed to a viable ethics; in this way the psy disciplines could be re-moralized.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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