Torture. Two types of physical
torture are distinguishable more by their psychological effect in induc-
ing conflict than by the degree of painfulness:
a. The first type is one in which the victim has a passive role
in the pain inflicted on him (e.g.,beatings). His conflict involves the
decision of whether or not to give in to demands in order to avoid further
pain. Generally, brutality of this type was not found to achieve the
desired results. Threats of torture were found more effective, as fear
of pain causes greater conflict within the individual than does pain it-
b. The second type of torture is represented by requiring the
individual to stand in one spot for several hours or assume some other
pain-inducing position. Such a requirement often engenders in the indi-
vidual a determination to "stick it out." This internal act of resistance
provide a feeling of moral superiority at first. As time passes and his
pain mounts,however, the individual becomes aware that it is his own
original determination to resist that is causing the continuance of pain.
A conflict develops within the individual between his moral determination
and his desire to collapse and discontinue the pain. It is this extra
internal conflict, in addition to the conflict over whether or not to give
in to the demands made of him, that tends to make this method of torture
more effective in the breakdown of the individual personality.
3. Isolation. Individual differences in reaction to isolation are
probably greater than to any other method. Some individuals appear to
be able to withstand prolonged periods of isolation without deleterious
effects, while a relatively short period of isolation reduces others to
the verge of psychosis. Reaction varies with the conditions of the iso-
lation cell. Some sources have indicated a strong reaction to filth and
vermin, although they had negligible reactions to the isolation. Others
reacted violently to isolation in relatively clean cells. The predominant
cause of breakdown in such situations is a lack of sensory stimulation
(i.e.,grayness of walls,lack of sound,absence of social contact,etc.).
Experimental subjects exposed to this condition have reported vivid hal-
licinations and overwhelming fears of losing their sanity.
4. Control of Communication. This is one of the most effective
methods for creating a sense of helplessness and despair. This measure
might well be considered the cornerstone of the communist system of con-
trol. It consists of strict regulation of the mail,reading materials,
broadcast materials, and social contact available to the individual. The
need to communicate is so great that when the usual channels are blocked,
the individual will resort to any open channel, almost regardless of the
implications of using that particular channel. Many POWs in Korea, whose
only act of "collaboration" was to sign petitions and "peace appeals,"
defended their actions on the ground that this was the only method of
letting the outside world know they were still alive. May stated that
their morale and fortitude would have been increased immeasurably had
leaflets of encouragement been dropped to them. When the only contact
with the outside world is via the interrogator, the prisoner comes to
develop extreme dependency on his interrogator and hence loses another
prop to his morale.
Another wrinkle in communication control is the informer system.
The recruitment of informers in POW camps discouraged communication
between inmates.POWs who feared that every act or thought of resistance
would be communicated to the camp administrators, lost faith in their
fellow man and were forced to "untrusting individualism." Informers are
also under several stages of brainwashing and elicitation to develop
and maintain control over the victims.
5. Induction of Fatigue. This is a well-known device for breaking
will power and critical powers of judgment. Deprivation of sleep results
in more intense psychological debilitation than does any other method of
engendering fatigue. The communists vary their methods. "Conveyor belt"
interrogation that last 50-60 hours will make almost any individual com-
promise, but there is danger that this will kill the victim. It is safer
to conduct interrogations of 8-10 hours at night while forcing the prisoner
to remain awake during the day. Additional interruptions in the remaining
2-3 hours of allotted sleep quickly reduce the most resilient individual .
Alternate administration of drug stimulants and depressants hastens the
process of fatigue and sharpens the psychological reactions of excitement
Fatigue, in addition to reducing the will to resist,also produces
irritation and fear that arise from increased "slips of the tongue." for-
getfulness, and decreased ability to maintain orderly thought processes.
6. Control of Food,Water and Tobacco. The controlled individual
is made intensely aware of his dependence upon his interrogator for the
quality and quantity of his food and tobacco. The exercise of this con-
trol usually follows a pattern. No food and little or no water is per-
mitted the individual for several days prior to interrogation.When the
prisoner first complains of this to the interrogator, the latter expresses
surprise at such inhumane treatment. He makes a demand of the prisoner.
If the latter complies,he receives a good meal. If he does not, he gets
a diet of unappetizing food containing limited vitamins,minerals, and
calories. This diet is supplemented occasionally by the interrogator if
the prisoner "cooperates." Studies of controlled starvation indicate
that the whole value-system of the subjects underwent a change. Their
irritation increased as their ability to think clearly decreased. The
control of tobacco presented an even greater source of conflict for heavy
smokers. Because tobacco is not necessary to life, being manipulated by
his craving for it can in the individual a strong sense of guilt.
7. Criticism and Self-Criticism. There are mechanisms of communist
thought control. Self-criticism gains its effectiveness from the fact
that although it is not a crime for a man to be wrong, it is a major crime
to be stubborn and to refuse to learn. Many individuals feel intensely re-
lieved in being able to share their sense of guilt. Those individuals
however, who have adjusted to handling their guilt internally have dif-
ficulty adapting to criticism and self-criticism. In brainwashing ,after
a sufficient sense of guilt has been created in the individual, sharing
and self-criticism permit relief. The price paid for this relief, how-
ever, is loss of individuality and increased dependency.
8. Hypnosis and Drugs as Controls. There is no reliable evidence
that the communists are making widespread use of drugs or hypnosis in
brainwashing or elicitation. The exception to this is the use of common
stimulants or depressants in inducing fatigue and "mood swings."
9. Other methods of control, which when used in conjunction with the
basic processes, hasten the deterioration of prisoners' sense of values
and resistance are:
a. Requiring a case history or autobiography of the prisoner
provides a mine of information for the interrogator in establishing and
b. Friendliness of the interrogator , when least expected, up-
sets the prisoner's ability to maintain a critical attitude.
c. Petty demands, such as severely limiting the allotted time
for use of toilet facilities or requiring the POW to kill hundreds of
flies, are harassment methods.
d. Prisoners are often humiliated by refusing them the use of
toilet facilities during interrogator until they soil themselves. often
prisoners were not permitted to bathe for weeks until they felt contempti-
e. Conviction as a war criminal appears to be a potent factor
in creating despair in the individual. One official analysis of the pres-
sures exerted by the ChiComs on "confessors" and "non-confessors" to
participation in bacteriological warfare in Korea showed that actual trial
and conviction of "war crimes" was overwhelmingly associated with breakdown
f. Attempted elicitation of protected information at various
times during the brainwashing process diverted the individual from aware-
ness of the deterioration of his value-system. The fact that, in most
cases, the ChiComs did not want or need such intelligence was not known
to the prisoner. His attempts to protect such information was made at
the expense of hastening his own breakdown.
THE EXERCISE OF CONTROL: A "SCHEDULE" FOR BRAINWASHING
From the many fragmentary accounts reviewed, the following appears
to be the most likely description of what occurs during brainwashing .
In the period immediately following capture, the captors are faced
with the problem of deciding on best ways of exploitation of the prisoners.
Therefore, early treatment is similar both for those who are to be exploited
through elicitation and those who are to undergo brainwashing. concurrently
with being interrogated and required to write a detailed personal history,
the prisoner undergoes a physical and psychological "softening-up" which
includes: limited unpalatable food rations,withholding of tobacco,possi-
ble work details,severely inadequate use of toilet facilities, no use of
facilities for personal cleanliness,limitation of sleep such as requiring
a subject to sleep with a bright light in his eyes. Apparently the inter-
rogation and autobiographical ,material, the reports of the prisoner's be-
haviour in confinement, and tentative "personality typing" by the interro-
gators, provide the basis upon which exploitation plans are made.
There is a major difference between preparation for elicitation and
for brainwashing .Prisoners exploited through elicitation must retain suffi-
cient clarity of thought to be able to give coherent,factual accounts. In
brainwashing , on the other hand, the first thing attacked is clarity of
thought. To develop a strategy of defense, the controlled individual must
determine what plans have been made for his exploitation. Perhaps the best
cues he can get are internal reactions to the pressures he undergoes.
The most important aspect of the brainwashing process is the interro-
gation. The other pressures are designed primarily to help the interrogator
achieve his goals. The following states are created systematically within
the individual . These may vary in order, but all are necessary to the
1. A feeling of helplessness in attempting to deal with the impersonal
machinery of control.
2. An initial reaction of "surprise."
3. A feeling of uncertainty about what is required of him.
4. A developing feeling of dependence upon the interrogator .
5. A sense of doubt and loss of objectivity.
6. Feelings of guilt.
7. A questioning attitude toward his own value-system.
8. A feeling of potential "breakdown," i.e.,that he might go crazy.
9. A need to defend his acquired principles.
10. A final sense of "belonging" (identification).
A feeling of helplessness in the face of the impersonal machinery
of control is carefully engendered within the prisoner. The individual
who receives the preliminary treatment described above not only begins
to feel like an "animal" but also feels that nothing can be done about
it. No one pays any personal attention to him. His complaints fall on
deaf ears. His loss of communication, if he has been isolated, creates
a feeling that he has been "forgotten." Everything that happens to him
occurs according to an impersonal; time schedule that has nothing to do
with his needs. The voices and footsteps of the guards are muted. He
notes many contrasts,e.g.,his greasy,unpalatable food may be served
on battered tin dishes by guards immaculately dressed in white. The
first steps in "depersonalization" of the prisoner have begun. He has
no idea what to expect. Ample opportunity is allotted for him to ruminate
upon all the unpleasant or painful things that could happen to him. He
approaches the main interrogator with mixed feelings of relief and
Surprise is commonly used in the brainwashing process. The prisoner
is rarely prepared for the fact that the interrogators are usually friendly
and considerate at first. They make every effort to demonstrate that
they are reasonable human beings. Often they apologize for bad treatment
received by the prisoner and promise to improve his lot if he, too, is
reasonable. This behaviour is not what he has steeled himself for. He
lets down some of his defenses and tries to take a reasonable attitude.
The first occasion he balks at satisfying a request of the interrogator ,
however, he is in for another surprise. The formerly reasonable inter-
rogator unexpectedly turns into a furious maniac. The interrogator is
likely to slap the prisoner or draw his pistol and threaten to shoot him.
Usually this storm of emotion ceases as suddenly as it began and the in-
terrogator stalks from the room. These surprising changes create doubt
in the prisoner as to his very ability to perceive another person's moti-
vations correctly. His next interrogation probably will be marked by im-
passivity in the interrogator 's mien.
A feeling of uncertainty about what is required of him is likewise
carefully engendered within the individual . Pleas of the prisoner to
learn specifically of what he is accused and by whom are side-stepped by
the interrogator. Instead, the prisoner is asked to tell why he thinks
he is held and what he feels he is guilty of. If the prisoner fails to
come up with anything, he is accused in terms of broad generalities (e.g.,
espionage, sabotage,acts of treason against the "people"). This us-
ually provokes the prisoner to make some statement about his activities.
If this take the form of a denial, he is usually sent to isolation on
further decreased food rations to "think over" his crimes. This process
can be repeated again and again. As soon as the prisoner can think of
something that might be considered self-incriminating, the interrogator
appears momentarily satisfied. The prisoner is asked to write down his
statement in his own words and sign it.
Meanwhile a strong sense of dependence upon the interrogator is
developed. It does not take long for the prisoner to realize that the
interrogator is the source of all punishment , all gratification,and all
communication. The interrogator , meanwhile,demonstrates his unpredict-
bility. He is perceived by the prisoner as a creature of whim. At
times, the interrogator can be pleased very easily and at other times
no effort on the part of the prisoner will placate him. The prisoner
may begin to channel so much energy into trying to predict the behaviour
of the unpredictable interrogator that he loses track of what is happen-
ing inside himself.
After the prisoner has developed the above psychological and emotional
reactions to a sufficient degree, the brainwashing begins in earnest.
First, the prisoner's remaining critical faculties must be destroyed.
He undergoes long, fatiguing interrogations while looking at a bright
light. He is called back again and again for interrogations after min-
imal sleep. He may undergo torture that tends to create internal con-
flict. Drugs may be used to accentuate his "mood swings." He develops
depression when the interrogator is being kind and becomes euphoric when
the interrogator is threatening the direst penalties. Then the cycle is
reversed. The prisoner finds himself in a constant state of anxiety
which prevents him from relaxing even when he is permitted to sleep.
Short periods of isolation now bring on visual and auditory hallucinations.
The prisoner feels himself losing his objectivity. It is in this state
that the prisoner must keep up an endless argument with the interrogator .
He may be faced with the confessions of other individuals who "collabo-
rated" with him in his crimes. The prisoner seriously begins to doubts
his own memory. This feeling is heightened by his inability to recall
little things like the names of the people he knows very well or the date
of his birth. The interrogator patiently sharpens this feeling of doubt
by more questioning. This tends to create a serious state of uncertainty
when the individual has lost most of his critical faculties.
The prisoner must undergo additional internal conflict when strong
feelings of guilt are aroused within him. As any clinical psychologist
is aware, it is not at all difficult to create such feelings. Military
servicemen are particularly vulnerable. No one can morally justify kill-
ing even in wartime. The usual justification is on the grounds of neces-
sity or self-defense. The interrogator is careful to circumvent such
justification. He keeps the interrogation directed toward the prisoner's
moral code. Every moral vulnerability is exploited by incessant question-
ing along this line until the prisoner begins to question the very fun-
damentals of his own value-system. The prisoner must constantly fight a
potential breakdown. He finds that his mind is "going blank" for longer
and longer periods of time. He can not think constructively. If he is
to maintain any semblance of psychological integrity, he must bring to
an end this state of interminable internal conflict. He signifies a
willingness to write a confession.
If this were truly the end, no brainwashing would have occurred.
The individual would simply have given in to intolerable pressure. Ac-
tually, the final stage of the brainwashing process has just begun. No
matter what the prisoner writes in his confession the interrogator is
not satisfied. The interrogator questions every sentence of the confes-
sion. He begins to edit it with the prisoner. The prisoner is forced
to argue against every change. This is the essence of brainwashing.
Every time that he gives in on a point to the interrogator, he must re-
write his whole confession. Still the interrogator is not satisfied.
In a desperate attempt to maintain some semblance of integrity and to
avoid further brainwashing, the prisoner must begin to argue that what
he has already confessed to is true. He begins to accept as his own the
statements he has written. He uses many of the interrogator's earlier
arguments to buttress his position. By this process,identification
with the interrogator's value-system becomes complete. It is extremely
important to recognize that a qualitative change has taken place within
the prisoner. The brainwashed victim does not consciously change his
value-system; rather the change occurs despite his efforts. He is no
more responsible for this change than is an individual who "snaps" and
becomes psychotic. And like the psychotic, the prisoner is not even
aware of the transition.
DEFENSIVE MEASURES OTHER THAN ON THE POLICY AND PLANNING LEVEL
1. Training of Individuals potentially subject to communist control.
Training should provide for the trainee a realistic appraisal
of what control pressures the communists are likely to exert and what
the usual human reactions are to such pressures. The trainee must learn
the most effective ways of combatting his own reactions to such pressures
and he must learn reasonable expectations as to what his behaviour should
be. Training has two decidedly positive effects; first, it provides the
trainee with ways of combatting control; second, it provides the basis
for developing an immeasurable boost in morale. Any positive action that
the individual can take, even if it is only slightly effective, gives him
a sense of control over a situation that is otherwise controlling him.
2. Training must provide the individual with the means of
recognizing realistic goals for himself.
a. Delay in yielding may be the only achievement that can be
hoped for. In any particular operation, the agent needs the support of
knowing specifically how long he must hold out to save an operation, pro-
tect his cohorts, or gain some other goal.