Created: 4/1/1958

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Conditioned Reflex, Drugs And Hypnosis In Commumnist Interrogations

Leonard Hilden




A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's faciual statements and interpretations.

In this and the followingtwo research psychologists

debunk some of the'.-' .

methods of suggestionto the Communists and ballyhooed for commercial use.


The dramatic confessions of persons brought to trial by the Communists and the pro-Communist sentiments expressed by some Americans released from Communist prisons have led to much speculation about Communist use of Pavloviantechniques, drugs, hypnosis, and other exotic means ot controlling human behavior. This speculation presupposes that behavioral scientists participate in the formulation and development of Communist control methods.

A specific Investigation of this supposition has beenThe findings of this Investigation are that scientists have not participated. The uniformity of control methods throughout the Communist countries makes it apparent that they have been organizedore or less formal body ofnd It is known that those who use the methods arc trained In the doctrine and try to follow it, but all of thepoints to the fact that the doctrine was developed and organized by the police officials themselves.

The central staff of the KGB and Its predecessors does not have any section devoted to psychological or medical research. No scientists are known to have participated In the planning of any of its procedures. It Is said that during Worlderiaighly secret laboratory section inow, in which physicians and other scientists attempted to

develop new methods of covert poisoning and other meansliminating or disabling target individuals. He and his as-

1escription of these method* see HinrJe tod Wolff,Interrogation and Indoctrination of "SMotes of theMA Archives of Nenroloay and Psychology, August 1PSS,

pp. .-



sociates were inspired by the activities of the Gestapo along these lines, and established then- Umoratory prTmarlly in order to keep up with technological advances In the field. It Isthat the results of this work were disappointing and the whole outfit was abolished shortly after the war. Thewho took part In the work were not considered top flight and were looked down upon by KGB officers in general.

Soviet and Satellite police officers have an earthy contempt for psychology In general and for psychologists andIn particular. Former secret police informants arein aifinning that no training in psychology oris given to officers who attend the KGB schools.

Aside from the question of scientific participation inprocedures, reports on the actual use of these exoticis also negative. There are reports of Communistwith them, but no instance of operational use except for normal medical purposes.

Much of Soviet psychology Is concerned with adaptations of the conditioned reflex concepts of Pavlov, one fundamental aspect of which is the belief that men can deliberately be made to develop predesigned types of thought and behavior under appropriately controlled environmental conditions.Laboratories have experimentedariety of situations for the acquisition of conditioned reflexes, and themethod has proved useful in describing and predicting the learning of simple behavior sequences. But so far as can be ascertained the limited scientific applicability of conditioning to intelligence operations has never been exploited by the

The KGBedical department which Is organised along the lines of the medical departments In our armed forces. Its mission Is to take care of the illnesses of prisoners and KGB per-sonneL It doesew psychiatrists, but no medicalor psychiatrist is ever, used In the interrogation processTheir function in prisoners underis simply that of evaluating the state of their physical and mental health, advising the interrogator when men are too ill for further interrogation, and treating prisoners for the effects of the tortures which have been carried out on them. They

to enable them to continue with prolonged bitexrogatlons.

Communis! Interrogations

They may give sedatives to excited prisoners. They usevitamins, and any other available adjuncts bfmedlcal therapy in the treatment of wounds and illness. But we have no reliable evidence of any direct medical or psychiatricIn attempts to elicit information from prisoners or to produce confessions.

Since tbe time of the purge trials there have been recurrent reports that the Communist secret police use drugseans of obtaining confessions. All the reports which could be found have been reviewed. In no case has it been possible to obtain any substantia] evidence that any drug played an Important rolenown interrogation or confession. Our informants, former Communist secret police officials, state that no drug had been issued to the MVD for use in interrogations as late

There is good reason to believe that secret police in thecountries, especially those of Czechoslovakia andhave experimented with the use of all tbe commonly known psychochemicals and so-called "truthhe drugs of potential importance In Interrogations fall Into threestimulants, hypnotics, and hallucinogenic agents.

The stimulants, in general, have the effect of Increasing pake-fulness and alertness at the expense of creating tremulous-ness, feelings of anxiety and overactivity. Caffeln. benzedrine, and dexedrine fall Into this category. Thereumber of derivatives of benzedrine which have essentially theynthetic benzedrine derivative, has been used in Czechoslovakia and Southeast Europe. Coffee andderivatives are sometimes administered to tired or sleepy prisoners In order to wake them up enough so that the Interrogation can be carried on. They have been used in this manner ta Eastern Europe, in Russia, and ta China. In and of themselves they have no important effect In producing confessions. Used ta combinationystem ofand physiological pressures they will in many casesand exacerbate the profound fatigue, confusion, loss of critical judgment, and breakdown of resistance whichonsequence of the full course of control techniques.

The so-calledo not actually produce hypnoaia. They are sleep-producing drugs whichoderately to-

Communist Interrogations

toxica ting effect in small doses. The barbiturates such asand phenobarbital (all Into this category. So-called "truthodium amytal or sodium pentothal, areacting barbiturates adrninistered by vein. When these drugs are given In the proper dosage, theyelaxing and befuddling effect similar to that produced by moderate amounts of alcohol. Under some circumstances, individuals intoxicated by these drugs become loose In their talk. But they have no effect In producing truth, and persons under their influence can resist their action to the same extent that they can resist the action of alcoboL There Is no evidence that tbehave effectively or extensively used amytal Interviewseans of extracting confessions, although It Is quitethat they have experimented with this maneuver. The hypnotic drug which is most frequently mentioned as atool isaturally occurring substance long known in medical science. It Is one of tbe Ingredients In the "twilight sleep" medication used by obstetricians on women in labor. It. too, has an intoxicating and befuddling effect In small doses, an effect which would be difficult to distinguish from that of the profound fatigue, sleep loss,anxiety and confusion produced by the usualcontrol techniques.

In every instance In which there Is direct evidence that Com-munist police have given hypnotic and sedative drugs tothey have administered these drugs for the purpose of calming and relaxing excited and fatigued Individuals.physicians would be likely to use these drugsimilar manner for the same reason.

The hallucinogenic agents have likewise been knownlong time. Marijuana falls into this category. Personsthe influence of these agentsisturbance ofprocesses which can be profoundly disorganizingDuring the past few yearsnd mescalineofexican plant) have_attraeted muchof their use In experimental psychiatry. It Isthe Russians, like other Intelligence services, haveboth of these substances, but there Is no evidencehave ever used them In attempts at

Communist Interrogations

It should be emphasised that the covert administration of any drug (stimulant, hypnotic, or hsuiucmogcnic agent) can produce an impact on the individual undergoing the stress of prolonged Imprisonment and interrogation which goesmerely accelerating the fatigue, disturbed Judgment, and other effects of the usual prolonged control pressures. The covertly administered drug can make the prisoner feel that the Interrogation is affecting him more than it really Is. It may make him feel that the interrogator is more powerful or more prescient than he really is, or that the situation has become more Intolerable and inexorable than it is in fact

This impact can be exploited by an interrogator to increase the prisoner's cooperation, providing the interrogator isperceptive and appropriately flexible in his approach. To what extent this fact is known to the Communists wesay. It is likely, however, that so long as they continue to employ the doctrinaire approach of their presentprocedure they will not have sufficientto exploit this aspect of drug effects.

Another question that recurrently arises Is whether prisoners at the time of police confession aretate of hypnosis. No evidence of the use of hypnotists or of hypnotism in any of the Communist confession procedures has been found. At the time of his Gestapo-like experiments, it Is said that Berlawith the use of hypnosis also. Our Informers state that the experimentsailure and the attempts did not continue.

Although formal hypnotism is not used, the confessionas It has been described does create in those exposed toIncreased degree of pliability and suggestibility. It Isto what extent the Communists are aware of thisexploit "

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