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Study says torture doesn't work

UPI | April 6 2006

A new study that applies the principles of game theory to intelligence gathering says torture does not succeed in getting information.

Roger Koppl, a professor of economics at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said Wednesday torture does not work because of a central problem: The government inflicting the torture can't make a believable promise to the torture victim that the punishment will stop once he or she tells the truth.

His study, entitled "Epistemic Systems," applies game theory to social situations in which people must decide whether to lie or tell the truth, according to a press release from the university. Game theory studies how people in conflict try to get the best outcome for themselves by picking the best available strategy. His work appears in "Episteme: Journal of Social Epistemology," a magazine that publishes research on which social situations encourage people to tell the truth and which do not.

According to Koppl, torture victims know governments resort to torture because they do not know the truth, so they would be unable to recognize it when they hear it. And if they do believe they have learned the truth, the victim has no reason to believe the torture will stop.

"Torture victims understand this fact and therefore hide the truth," according to the statement.

Koppl's research is meant to overturn conventional wisdom that suggests torture is an effective means of gathering information, particularly in a "ticking bomb" scenario, but that governments should not engage in it for moral reasons.

"There are situations in which torture works, but they are rare. Twentieth-Century experiences with torture show that it is futile in most cases," Koppl said in the statement.

 

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