Category Archives: Military and war

Quick links


Having neglected this blog somewhat in recent weeks I find myself now overwhelmed with interesting snippets from around the web and blogosphere. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

The Eyewitness Reform Blog reports on a conviction “overturned for failure to “seriously consider” expert testimony on eyewitness factors”: “The court didn’t go as far as to say that it was error to exclude the expert testimony, but citing Illinois case law, found that it was error to fail to provide a reasoned basis for its exclusion.”

The Eyewitness Reform Blog also highlights the recent publication of an article in the NIJ Journal on making eyewitness identification in police line-ups more reliable.

Convicted conman Frank Abnegale claims that a combination of technology and living in “an extremely unethical society” has made crime easier: “You can build all the security systems in the world; you can build the most sophisticated technology, and all it takes is one weak link — someone who operates that technology — to bring it all down” (hat tip to Slashdot).

Some great posts from Romeo Vitelli at Providentia recently, including the tale of a psychotic priest killer, an exorcism case in Singapore, the killer who boasted about how easy it was to lie to psychiatrists, Guy de Maupassant’s struggle with neurosyphilis and two articles on shell shock.

Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast has also had some interesting posts up in the last few weeks, including a critique of the “policy many police and probation departments have adopted of rounding up all the registered sex offenders in their community into custody on Halloween night to keep them from having children come to their door” (see also Karen Franklin’s post) and a comment on the fact that although Americans are less likely to be victims of crime, their fear of crime just keeps rising.

Forensic psych Karen Franklin highlights some interesting (and free) articles on sex offending in the journal Sexual Offender Treatment. Whilst I’m talking about Karen, I’ll point you to a great little piece she wrote in September in which she demolishes a few myths and provides some practical advice about what it takes to become a forensic psych.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing points us towards the impressive set of evaluation resources over at the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 34 is up at Abyss2Hope.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

Articles in the APA Monitor for October

articleSome articles of forensic interest in the October 2007 issue of the APA’s Monitor on Psychology 38(9):

  • APA’s council calls for ban on torture: APA names specific torture methods that the U.S. government should prohibit.
  • Stay involved or get out? APA members deliberate whether psychologists should play a role in military interrogations.
  • Evil’s mundane roots: Three renowned behavioral scientists illuminate the triggers of our darkest behaviors.
  • Stop the genocide: Several psychologists are working to end Darfur’s ethnic cleansing.
  • Deeper than sticks and stones: Discrimination not only undermines a person’s self-worth, it can destroy family life.
  • Psychologists’ testimony may not help: Judges and juries tend to trust their guts over psychologists’ testimony, speakers report.

    New issues: Violence Against Women


    The August, September and October 2007 issues of Violence Against Women are now online. Follow the links to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

    Sign up for personalised ToC alerts here.

    Violence Against Women 13(8), August 2007

    • An Evaluation of the Coping Patterns of Rape Victims: Integration With a Schema-Based Information-Processing Model – Heather Littleton
    • Patterns of Injuries: Accident or Abuse – Terry Allen, Shannon A. Novak, and Lawrence L. Bench
    • An Integrative Feminist Model: The Evolving Feminist Perspective on Intimate Partner Violence – Beverly A. McPhail, Noel Bridget Busch, Shanti Kulkarni, and Gail Rice
    • Intimate Partner Violence, Technology, and Stalking – Cynthia Southworth, Jerry Finn, Shawndell Dawson, Cynthia Fraser, and Sarah Tucker
    • Negotiating State and NGO Politics in Bangladesh: Women Mobilize Against Acid Violence – Elora Halim Chowdhury
    • Understanding the Complexities of Feminist Perspectives on Woman Abuse: A Commentary on Donald G. Dutton’s Rethinking Domestic Violence – Walter S. DeKeseredy and Molly Dragiewicz

    Violence Against Women 13(9), September 2007

    • Attitudes Toward Women and Tolerance for Sexual Harassment Among Reservists – Dawne Vogt, Tamara A. Bruce, Amy E. Street, and Jane Stafford
    • Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women – Donna M. Hughes, Katherine Y. Chon, and Derek P. Ellerman
    • Guest Editor’s Note: Modern-Day Comfort Women – Christine Hansen
    • Lifetime and Current Sexual Assault and Harassment Victimization Rates of Active-Duty United States Air Force Women – Deborah J. Bostock and James G. Daley
    • Rape Rates and Military Personnel in the United States: An Exploratory Study – Leora N. Rosen
    • Analysis and Implications of the Omission of Offenders in the DoD Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force Report – Kristen Houser

    Violence Against Women 13(10), October 2007

    • “Everybody Makes Choices”: Victim Advocates and the Social Construction of Battered Women’s Victimization and Agency – Jennifer L. Dunn and Melissa Powell-Williams
    • Cultural Beliefs and Service Utilization by Battered Arab Immigrant Women – Wahiba Abu-Ras
    • Domestic Violence Across Race and Ethnicity: Implications for Social Work Practice and Policy – Susan F. Grossman and Marta Lundy
    • The Effect of Child Sexual Abuse Allegations/ Investigations on the Mother/Child Relationship – Carol A. Plummer and Julie Eastin
    • Factor Structure and Validity of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales for Spanish Women – Esther Calvete, Susana Corral, and Ana Estevez

    Quick links


    Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

    Reports from a review of the Virginia Tech massacre have been published (download via Docuticker) prompting much commentary, including this detailed post over at World of Psychology, where John Grohol discusses the report (pdf) detailing mass murderer Seung Hui Cho’s mental health history.

    Providentia draws our attention to a study presented at the recent APA convention which “indicated that sexual assault on women with physical disabilities tended to be more coercive and more physically severe than assaults on women with other types of problems”.

    GNIF Brain Blogger discusses research on the implications of war on mental health:

    A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released articles dedicated to the study of conflict, human rights, and international mental health consequences. Some of the most striking papers dealt specifically with the psychological effects of war as well as the implications exposure to violent war crimes have on efforts towards peace building.

    Via Karin Franklin, link to a detailed discussion of the efficacy of sex offender treatment over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

    Over at The Situationist Blog, consideration of several forensically-relevant issues over the last few weeks, including ongoing discussion of Philip Zimbardo’s latest book The Lucifer Effect here and here, and in a post in which Zimbardo replies to his critics in person. Other recent posts include a commentary on judicial independence and a spotlight on research on race and the death penalty.

    Peter Tillers draws our attention to a new paper up at SSRN on The Theater of the Courtroom.

    Carnival Against Sexual Violence 30 is up at Abyss2Hope.

    Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

    Upcoming Conference. War, Torture and Terror: The Role of Psychology

    Those of you following the continuing debate about the participation of psychologists in interrogations may be interested in a one day conference this Friday in New York.

    “War, Torture and Terror: The Role of Psychology” is being held on 22 June from 9am to 4pm at the Geraldine Schottenstein Center, 239-241 East 34th Street, NYC. Sessions include:

    • The Development of Psychological Torture: A Modern History of Coercive Interrogation and Its Effectiveness (Shara Sand)
    • The Role of Psychologists in the Global War on Terror; Professional and Ethical Considerations (Michael Gelles)
    • Torture, Ethics and the Consequences of Complicity (Leonard Rubenstein)
    • Torture Across the Generations: The Chilean Project of Theater Arts Against Political Violence (Steven Reisner
    • Human Rights Violations in Homophobic Persecution (Leanh Nguyen
    • Therapeutic Responses to Displaced African Female Survivors of Sexual Violence (Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith)
    • Riding Two Horses: The APA’s Support for Interrogations, Psychological Ethics, and Human Rights (Edward J. Tejirian)
    • From Trauma to Tragedy: How Holocaust Survivors built Shattered Lives (Carl Auerbach and Shoshana Mirvis)
    • Defining Evil, the Depravity Standard and War Crimes (Michael Welner)

    More details via the conference brochure here [warning: big pdf download]; register online via the Yeshiva University website here.

    Hat tip to Psyche, Science and Society.

    Recent podcasts

    MP3onredSome recent podcasts on topics relevant to psychology and crime:

    Mentally Ill and Incarcerated (The Leonard Lopate Show, 5 June) :

    More than four times as many mentally ill people are in prison and jail than in all state psychiatric hospitals combined. Mary Beth Pfeiffer investigates why so many end up incarcerated in Crazy in America.

    Inside Abu Ghraib (The Leonard Lopate Show, 7 June) :

    In Fear Up Harsh, Tony Lagouranis talks about following orders to abuse prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And he explains why he became the first Army interrogator to publicly denounce the tactics he used.

    Death of a Dissident (The Leonard Lopate Show, 12 June) :

    Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was fatally poisoned in London last November. In Death of a Dissident, Mr. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina Litvineko, and his friend Alex Goldfarb reveal what they know about the international murder mystery.

    Prison mental health (Royal College of Psychiatrists, May 07):

    Professor Graham Thornicoft from the Health Service Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, discusses developments in prison mental health inreach teams with Dr Raj Persaud (podcast, MP3)

    Photo credit: Focus_on_me, Creative Commons License

    Articles of forensic interest in June’s Monitor

    jun07thumbThis month’s APA Monitor on Psychology magazine (Vol 38, No. 6, June 2007) includes several stories of interest in a forensic context.

    The cover story is a triple-bill of short articles on psychology in the courtroom:

      • Order in the court: The best way to educate juries on the pitfalls of eyewitness evidence? Teach judges, say psychologists.
      • To ask or not to ask: The practice of allowing juror questions gains momentum.
      • The problem with DNA: Forensic evidence increasingly includes genetic fingerprinting, but researchers worry that juries put too much stock in the results.

    Also in this issue, an articles on:

    All this and reminiscence by rats

    Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment

    Genocide Museum 17 Jan 06I’ve posted before here about the publicity surrounding Philip Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect. Two articles in the latest issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin take a look at Zimbardo’s famous/notorious Stanford Prison Experiment (follow the link for more details of the SPE).

    In discussions of the SPE, the participants have usually been referred to as ordinary students. But, wondered Thomas Carnahan and Sam McFarland, what sort of students volunteer for such a study? Are they the same in personality dimensions as those who would not volunter, or who would volunteer for a different sort of study? The question is important, because it is possible that people who volunteer to take part in a ‘prison study’ may show particular characteristics which, when they are put in particular situations, dispose them to engage in abusive, abhorrent or otherwise cruel behaviours towards other people. People who don’t volunteer might not behave in the same way if put in the same situation. If so, then it has implications for the situationist argument that, in the right (or, rather, wrong) situation, anyone could become a torturer / sadistic guard / terrorist ….

    Carnahan and McFarland couldn’t test this theory using the SPE data, and instead re-ran the volunteering part of the study to see what sort of people would volunteer for a two week study ‘of prison life’, compared to those volunteering for a study described in an identical manner but with the ‘prison life’ bit taken out. This extract from their abstract tells what happened:

    Volunteers for the prison study scored significantly higher on measures of the abuse-related dispositions of aggressiveness, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and social dominance and lower on empathy and altruism, two qualities inversely related to aggressive abuse. Although implications for the SPE remain a matter of conjecture, an interpretation in terms of person-situation interactionism rather than a strict situationist account is indicated by these findings. Implications for interpreting the abusiveness of American military guards at Abu Ghraib Prison also are discussed.

    Incidentally, I think the study on hooliganism that I reported a few days ago says something very similar, albeit in a different context.

    Also in this issue of PSPB, Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher (who ran their own version of the SPE back in 2001) offer a commentary on Carnahan and McFarland’s paper, discuss the research on situationist approaches to understanding evil and conclude (p.621) that:

    Arendt, Milgram, and Zimbardo played a critical part in taking us beyond reductionist explanations of tyranny as a simple product of pathological individuals. But now, their reductionist explanations of tyranny as a simple product of pathological situations—the banality-of-evil hypothesis—seem equally untenable. Instead, the case is emerging for an interactionist understanding that sees the social psychology of individual tyrants and collective tyranny as interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

    […] it is true that evil can become normal and indeed normative in groups and hence can end up appearing banal. However, the development of these norms and of their appeal is a long and intricate process. This process—the normalization of evil—is far from banal. Our theories of it should no longer be either.

    References :

    See also:

    Photo credit: me, Genocide Museum , Cambodia, taken Jan 2006.

    Zimbardo round-up

    zimbardoThe whirlwind of publicity for Philip Zimbardo’s new book The Lucifer Effect continues. Here’s a round-up of recent interviews, blog posts and other commentary:

    Zimbardo’s 2 April lecture at MIT can be viewed online via this link.

    The Situationist Blog reported (13 April) on Zimbardo’s 3 April appearance at Harvard Law, and a video of the lecture will apparently be posted on their website this week.

    Plenty of other video around too, including this interview with The Edge (via Mind Hacks), and Zimbardo’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, which can be watched here.

    The UK’s Sunday Times (8 April) carried a piece that covered Zimbardo’s work alongside desciptions of the classic Milgram and Asch studies on conformity and obedience, trying to explain the origins and nature of evil:

    Three devastating psychological experiments in the 20th century seemed to suggest answers to these questions. The first — the Asch conformity experiment — showed that people could be led into denying the evidence of their own eyes by their desire to conform, blindly to accept the authority of the group. The second — the Milgram experiment — showed that people were prepared to subject others to potentially lethal electric shocks because they were encouraged to do so by authority figures. And the third — the Stanford prison experiment — showed that perfectly ordinary well-balanced people could be turned into savage tyrants or cowering victims simply by the situations in which they found themselves

    The New York Times published an interview in Q & A format with Zimbardo on 3 April, covering familiar ground of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the professor’s thoughts on the Abu Ghraib scandal:

    A. […] I was willing to be an expert witness for Sgt. Chip Frederick, who was ultimately sentenced to eight years for his role at Abu Ghraib. Frederick was the Army reservist who was put in charge of the night shift at Tier 1A, where detainees were abused. Frederick said, up front, “What I did was wrong, and I don’t understand why I did it.”

    Q. Do you understand?

    A. Yeah. The situation totally corrupted him. When his reserve unit was first assigned to guard Abu Ghraib, Frederick was exactly like one of our nice young men in the S.P.E. Three months later, he was exactly like one of our worst guards.

    Not everyone is complimentary about Zimbardo’s work. Bioethics Blog quotes Alan Milstein:

    […Zimbardo] has made a career and, apparently, a nice living on a human research project regarded by most bioethicists today as patently unethical because it offered all risk and no benefit to the student subjects…

    Back in December 2001 British social psychologists Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher conducted a replication of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and later published several academic articles based on this work. More details and links to many of the articles in this Psychology and Crime News post from March 2006.

    Photo credit: shams1shaikh, Creative Commons License

    Webcast: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil


    If you’re in the Cambridge Mass area on Monday 2 April at 4pm you can catch a forum led by renowned psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who will be discussing his new book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. If you’re not able to be in Boston, the forum will be broadcast via this link (RealPlayer).

    On his website for the new book, Dr Zimbardo explains:

    In this book, I summarize more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a “perfect storm” which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the “Lucifer Effect,” named after God’s favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan.

    Rather than providing a religious analysis, however, I offer a psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts.

    The Lucifer Effect website has details of other upcoming talks and interviews with Dr Zimbardo here, including The Daily Show tonight (29 March).

    Hat tip to Stephen Soldz’s blog.

    Photo credit: maria.g, Creative Commons License.