If Torture is Wrong, What About 24?: Torture and the Hollywood Effect
22 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014 Last revised: 4 Nov 2014
Date Written: August 19, 2014
Since the shock of Abu Ghraib, scholars and policymakers have engaged in vigorous debate over both the efficacy and morality of torture. Research on torture has focused on a wide range of attitudes about torture, the use of torture, what constitutes torture, why torture persists, and the efficacy of using torture. These studies have generally examined participants’ attitudes but have neglected to assess behaviors in line with stated beliefs. We offer a novel design to address this gap by examining how perceived efficacy of torture impacts the support for torture and ultimately behaviors consistent with these beliefs. Using a mixed within-subjects and between-subjects design, we presented participants with dramatic depictions showing torture as either effective in eliciting information from a detainee, ineffective in this regard, or a neutral condition where torture is not used. We found that dramatic depictions of torture as being effective increased both stated level of support for torture and behavioral commitment to this belief. Interestingly, there was no difference in level of behavioral commitment between participants who saw dramatic depictions of torture, regardless of whether or not it was effective, which may indicate people are more likely to support aggression after seeing violence.
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