June 10th Congressional Briefing on Abu Ghraib

One of PPO's goals is to bring relevant psychological science to bear on issues of national concern.

One of PPO's goals is to bring relevant psychological science to bear on issues of national concern. On Thursday, June 10th, APA sponsored a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill to educate a target audience of congressional staff and federal agency personnel on psychological research related to the recent incidents in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Two distinguished psychological scientists spoke at the briefing: social psychologist Steve Breckler, Ph.D. (APA's Executive Director for Science) and I/O psychologist Kevin Murphy, Ph.D. (Head of the Department of Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University). Dr. Breckler gave an overview of the social psychological principles relevant to the prisoner abuse situation, and Dr. Murphy presented findings from research on organizations, and the military in particular, that suggest ways to prevent further abuse.

The briefing drew a large crowd, even in the midst of unusual week in Washington during which former President Reagan lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Ted Strickland, one of four psychologists in the U.S. House of Representatives and a former consultant to a correctional facility, planned to make remarks at the APA briefing but was unable to attend due to changes in the congressional schedule. A number of House and Senate staff attended, in addition to staff from federal agencies, including the Army, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of State. Research-oriented organizations, including the National Academies of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Institute for Defense Analysis sent representatives and reporters from Nature magazine met separately with our two speakers.