General Question

wundayatta's avatar

What training techniques get people to see certain other people as less than human?

Asked by wundayatta (58604points) April 30th, 2009

In Nazi Germany, a whole culture saw Jews as less than human. In Vietnam, the army was trained to see the Vietnamese as Gooks, so they could kill them. In Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, certain units within the army and CIA became able to torture other humans. They could even take pictures of it, and laugh about it, even though they were doing things to people they wouldn’t do to a pig.

I believe you have to dehumanize people in order to be able to torture them, or to be able to believe it is ok to kill them. Either that, or you have to be a sociopath. However, I think we may all have sociopathic tendencies within us, and certain training techniques can help us to close down our senses of morality, and let the sociopath loose.

What are those techniques? How can we turn moral and ethical people into sociopaths?

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25 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

it’s just the “enemy” mentality. They’re the bad guys, so to speak. With Germany the Jews were a scapegoat for economic problems, in vietnam atrocities were committed on both sides so each viewed the other as inhuman.
When you’re trained to kill people, you get pretty good at it. Sounds obvious, but in the Army’s thinking, what good would a soldier be if he held a candlelight ceremony every time he picked off a bad guy?

oratio's avatar

Noam Chomsky said that if you put your boot on somebody’s neck, you need to hate or despise that person to justify what you are doing. I think that is what we do.

Whatever we do, we find a way to justify it, even if it’s wrong. We all see ourselves as good people. I am sure the Una bomber, Hitler and Muhammad Atta saw themselves as people as good people.

I would agree to that people in power and in position of influence has a part in the corruption of the audience, but I think we dehumanize ourselves by our actions and our choices.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

See “Republican Party Platform”

hearkat's avatar

I think it takes a form of brainwashing. In many cases, it is a matter of self-preservation to side with those in power so as not to become a victim yourself. I recall an NPR interview a few years back with an African boy involved in a tribal war (possibly from Dharfur) who told how he was stolen from his mother at a young age, along with many other boys by the rebel army. If one of them defied their captors, they were bitten to death by the other boys – so their choice was to kill or be killed (in a most horrific way).

GAMBIT's avatar

I think what is used is a type of brainwashing affect that declares that one group is evil or a threat to the goodness of the other group. Also they throw in that the reason for there actions is to protect country and family so somehow the cause appears to be noble. So you have a mixture of patriotism, heroism and a big spoon full of store front propaganda.

During the atrocity of war a soldier comes face to face with the reality that he must find and kill the darkest of all phantoms what they call the enemy. If not the enemy will kill him. He is subjected to a situation where he must do all he can to complete his mission no matter how horrific. He doesn’t have time to think who is the person? What has this person ever done to me? He must be conditioned with the understanding that if he does not act fast enough he will lose his life.

As a child I played many sports. I had only one objective that was to win. I did not play for fun. I was told that I was an ambassador of the school and to bring home the trophy so it could sit in a glass case outside the gymnasium. I knew what my team colors where and they never changed. Each week I played against another school who had different colors than mine. I did all that I could to defend the green and gold.

avalmez's avatar

whatcha do @daloon is you sit your sociopaths-to-be down in a theatre somewhere and you make them watch footage of skilled sociopaths flying planes filled with innocent people into buildings filled with more innocent people.

you make the sociopaths-to-be watch as people in the building above the inferno started when the planes crashed into their building, decide the heat from that inferno and the option of being consumed by it is less appealing than jumping off the building. so, in slow motion, you make them witness footage of people falling 100 stories to their deaths.

you shamelessly make the viewers witness those buildings come crashing down and killing hundreds, thousands of others in an insttant.

yeap, i bet that will work. it worked in vivo, why not in living color.

ubersiren's avatar

Repetitive examples of negative stereotypes. That way when the trainee sees the subject in real life, all he can see is that stereotype, no matter how subtle the undesirable trait. Then it’s validated and becomes “real.”

mamabeverley's avatar

@avalmez You are right, the number of enlisted after 9/11 went sky high even though at the time we were not sure who was responsible. Just like 12/7/41.

You know, until the day my grandfather died, he believed Sadam Hussien was responsible for 9/11 because that is what President Bush said and he was of the generation where you DID NOT question the President. He could not imagine his President lying to him. Almost 20% of people still believe this to be true. If it was not true, going to war was wrong, and they cannot admit that a person would use their personal agenda to take a whole nation to war.

oratio's avatar

@mamabeverley Yeah, I think it could be hard to admit that the president and government used their love and loyalty for their country for other motives. I think that might be such a violation for passionate patriots, that it just can’t be true. A form of chosen denial maybe.

RedPowerLady's avatar

What was the study called when they put the college students in a fake prison? Ahh… I googled it. LOL. The Stanford Prison Experiment.

They didn’t even have to train them to dehumanize them. They simply put the college students in two separate roles.
Prisoners and Guards.

And quite quickly they conformed to these roles. So much so that the guards started becoming abusive and they had to end the study early.


avalmez's avatar

@mamabeverley bush wasn’t the first president or leader of a country anywhere to resort to tactics in order to unite the people behind their opaque ulterior motives. any leader in time or place (good or bad) knows how to do that. history will judge bush more appropriately than any of us caught up current events is able to judge him. and denial comes in many shapes and forms, some more innocent or acceptable than others. but, let’s not digress…

mamabeverley's avatar

@oratio For sure chosen denial. As a WW2 Vet, he had a hard time admitting that anything we did could be concieved of as wrong. That war was so difficult and during that war, the rules of combat started to change. What we are dealing with now, is part of that change. Many times fighting an unknown enemy, across many borders. With the lines so blurry there is no black and white, and leaving things upto someones moral compass is scary.

mamabeverley's avatar

@avalmez That is true, but after 9/11 we were already united. It is easy to manipulate people for the “common good”. Like you said, you tell them this is the enemy, this is what they have done and they are going to keep doing it unless you stop them. Come hell or high water you do not want that failure if you did not stop them. If I was told someone was gonna kill my kid, I would take them apart with a spoon if that was the only weapon I had.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t think any amount of training could effect my core value system. I think that many people who join the military, CIA and other like agencies already have a tendency toward violence, a desire for power over others, and a greater capacity to do harm to others.

avalmez's avatar

@tinyfaery what about personal experiance? can you imagine a situation where you or someone you know is subjected to an experience so counter to your core values, that it actually causes a shift in those values, one needed to restore your original values, perhaps?

tinyfaery's avatar

NO. I love my wife more than anything, but I would NEVER treat another human being badly because someone hurt her. That would make me no better than the person who first perpetrated the horrible act. And my wife, knowing me the way she does would expect nothing different from me.

avalmez's avatar

@tinyfaery OK. however, torture isn’t the only form of psychological and physical attack that can make someone do or say things they would not otherwise do or say. i take you for your word in your case nonetheless.

wundayatta's avatar

@tinyfaery: What would you guess caused the difference between you and people who could be trained to kill and torture? The people with tendencies towards violence, or a desire for power, or the capacity to harm others: how did they get that way?

oratio's avatar

@daloon The stanford and the Milgram experiments, are but two experiments that indicate that it’s in all of us. But then again I don’t think environment is to blame for everything. It certainly plays a big part when it comes to criminality, but at some point we make our own decisions. We can’t mold people into perfect citizens with an environmental cast. With that I mean that I don’t think we can answer why people do the things they do, why they are like they are fully.

tinyfaery's avatar

@oratio Not one person decided not to participate in torture and mistreatment? I have a hard time believeing that.

@daloon According to my wife, I have little interest in what other people choose to do and why. I do not take the advice of “experts” and I most certainly do not hold beliefs or act just because someone else does or someone else says it’s ok. Maybe it is my upbringing (my dad is like this also), or maybe I am just wired this way.

oratio's avatar

@tinyfaery Some people in the Milgram experiment failed to torture. Was that what you meant? I guess these experiments are somewhat to be doubted scientifically, but it indicates that it is in all of us, MORE or LESS.

wundayatta's avatar

Isn’t the Milgram experiment one of the famous experiments that lead to the development of Internal Review Boards, in order to provide as much protection as possible for the human subjects of research?

Crusader's avatar

Christian-Hate Media, Affirmative Action, Liberal Agenda

YARNLADY's avatar

One very important evolutionary survival technique that is build into our genes is the need to recognize our ‘own kind’ as “us”, and other kinds as “them”. Once that is established, it’s easy.

Crusader's avatar

Evolution and social engineering are mutually exclusive. As a Darwinist, the best and most capable are leaders, as a social conserative, similar, but with punitive actions levied against the absolute ruthless and cruel, as a Liberal, or centrist, anything goes, as long as you have a productive, and compassionate, ignorant demographic to exploit…

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