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E. Psychologists have conducted considerable research in many areas that are closely related to
coercive "questioning". During this course we will discuss the following topics as they relate to
1. Reactions to pain and fear.
2. The effects of debility and isolation
3. Hypnosis and narcosis.
The Theory of Coercion
A. The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by
bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist. Regression is basically a loss of
autonomy, a reversion to an earlier behavior level. As the subject regresses, his learned personality
traits fall away in reverse chronological order. He begins to lose the capacity to carry out the highest
creative activities, to deal with complex situations, to copy with stressful interpersonal
relationships, or to cope with repeated frustrations. The use of most coercive techniques is improper
and violates laws.
B. There are three major principles involved in the successful application of coercive techniques:
Debility (Physical Weakness)
For centuries "questioners" have employed various methods of inducing physical weaknesses:
prolonged constraint; prolonged exertion; extremes of heat, cold, or moisture; and deprivation of
sleep. The assumption is that lowering the subject's physiological resistance will lower his
psychological capacity for resistance; however, there has been no scientific investigation of this
Many psychologists consider the threat of inducing debility to be more effective than debility itself.
Prolonged constraint or exertion, sustained deprivation of food or sleep, etc. often become patterns
to which a subject adjusts by becoming apathetic and withdrawing into himself, in search of escape
from the discomfort and tension. In this case debility would be counter-productive.
The questioner should be careful Another coercive technique is to manipulate the subject's
environment to disrupt patterns, not to create them, such as arranging meals and sleep should be
granted irregularly, in more than abundance or less than adequacy, on no discernable time pattern.
This will is done to disorient the subject and by destroying his capacity to resist.
He is helplessly dependent upon the "questioner" for the satisfaction of all basic needs.
Dread (Intense Fear and Anxiety)
Sustained long enough, a strong fear of anything vague or unknown induces regression. On the
other hand, materialization of the fear is likely to come as a relief. The subject finds that he can hold
out and his resistance is strengthened.