Political Prisoners and Torture
How have various social psychological perspectives sought to explain the making of a torturer? O’Byrne (2003, p.192)
Torture is an unlawful and immoral act which pain and suffering is inflicted upon a human being for many purposes, one of them being to extract information. There are a number of torture methods which are commonly used even today and this raises the question why and how torturers are brought about, which social and psychological factors contribute towards the making of a torturer and how do these factors explain it altogether?
Although the impulse for aggression and destruction is part of a basic human instinct (O’Byrne 2003, p. 181) there are a number of theories that attempt to explain the making of a torturer – such as Adorno’s theory of the ‘authoritarian personality’, Milgram’s theory of obedience, and Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance in the studies by O’Byrne (2003 p.181).
Adorno identified the authoritarian personality type as having these characteristics; the authoritarian personality does not want to give orders, their personality type wants to take orders. People with this type of personality seek conformity, security and stability. (Rebecca Riehm 2000, p007). This theory might help to explain the making of a torturer in a way that they are easily manipulated into performing the act as they tend to get anxious and insecure when events or circumstances modify or upset their previously existing world view.
While a torturer might be a result of a social construction, studies were made into the willingness of people to inflict pain upon others. It is common for torturers to justify their actions as merely the carrying out of orders (O’Byrne 2003 p.182). An Example of this would be the torturing of the Iraqi soldiers by American soldiers in the Iraq war. One sociological explanation that sou...