Torture. The United Nations defines it as the “infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” But how severe is severe? That judgment determines whether or not the law classifies an interrogation practice as torture.
Now, a study published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, condemns this method of classification as essentially flawed. The reason: The people estimating the severity of pain aren’t experiencing that pain—so they underestimate it.
As a result, many acts of torture are not classified—or prohibited—as torture, say authors, Loran F. Nordgren of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Mary-Hunter Morris of Harvard Law School, and George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University. (more…)