Did a Harvard Scientist Drive Ted Kaczynski Insane?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by madanthonywayne, Jul 7, 2010.

  1. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    Henry Murray was a scientist who was involved in research for the OSS during WW2 into things like brainwashing and how soldiers would perform under severe stress. He developed a test to measure the suitability of candidates for the OSS. Here's a description:
    One of the tests that Murray devised for the OSS was intended to determine how well applicants withstood interrogations. As he and his colleagues described it in their 1948 report "Selection of Personnel for Clandestine Operations--Assessment of Men."

    The candidate immediately went downstairs to the basement room. A voice from within commanded him to enter, and on complying he found himself facing a spotlight strong enough to blind him for a moment. the room was otherwise dark. Behind the spotlight sat a scarcely discernible board of inquisitors...The interrogator gruffly ordered the candidate to sit down. when he did so, he discovered that the chair in which he sat was so arranged that the full strength of the beam was focused directly on his face....

    At firs the questions were asked in a quiet sympathetic, conciliatory manner, to invite confidence...After a few minutes, however, the examiner worked up to a crescendo in a dramatic fashion....When an inconsistency appeared, he raised his voice and lashed out at the candidate, often with sharp sarcasm. He might even roar, "You're a liar."

    Even anticipation of this test was enough to cause some applicants to fall apart. The authors wrote that one person "insisted he could not go through with the test." They continued, "A little later the director...found the candidate in his bedroom, sitting on the edge of his cot, sobbing."
    After the war, Murray continued his research at Harvard. This is when he and a young (he was only 16) Ted Kaczynski crossed paths. Kaczynski says he was pressured into participating in one of Murray's experiments. Kaczynski and the other subjects were told:

    First, you are told you have a month in which to write a brief exposition of your personal philosophy of life, an affirmation of the major guiding principles in accord with which you live or hope to live.

    Second, when you return to the Annex with your finished composition, you are informed that in a day or two you and a talented young lower will be asked to debate the respective merits of your two philosophies.

    Doesn't sound so bad. But what actually happened was this:
    When the subject arrived for the debate, he was escorted to a "brilliantly lighted room" and seated in front of a one-way mirror. A motion-picture camera recorded his every move and facial expression through a hole in the wall. Electrodes leading to machines that recorded his heart and respiratory rates were attached to his body. Then the debate began. Bu the students were tricked. Contrary to what Murray claimed in his article, they had been led to believe that they would debate their philosophy of life with another student like themselves. Instead they confronted what Forrest Robinson describes as a "well-prepared `stooge"--a talented young lawyer indeed, but one who had been instructed to launch into an aggressive attack on the subject, for the purpose of upsetting him as much as possible.

    Robinson has described what happened next.

    As instructed, the unwitting subject attempted to represent and to defend his personal philosophy of life. Invariably, however, he was frustrated, and finally brought to expressions of real anger, by the withering assault of his older, more sophisticated opponent...while fluctuations in the subject's pulse and respiration were measured on a cardio tachometer.
    This process was based on the OSS candidate test and was designed to be traumatic and highly unpleasant. Of course, a candidate for the OSS pretty much knows what he's in for. But a college student, especially a 16 year old? That's another story. Here's a description of the experience:

    I could see shadowy activities going on behind the one-way glass...[Dr. G]...started fastening things on me. had a sensation somewhat akin to someone being strapped on the electric chair with these electrodes...I really started getting hit real hard...Wham, wham, wham! And me getting hotter and more irritated and my heart beat going up...and sweating terribly...there I was under the lights and with the movie camera and all this experimentation equipment on me...It was sort of an unpleasant experience.

    "Right away," said another, code-named Trump, describing his experience afterward, "I didn't like [the interrogator]."

    [Dr. G]...came waltzing over and he put on those electrodes but in that process, while he was doing that, kind of whistling, I was looking over the room, and right away I didn't like the room. I didn't like the way the glass was in front of me through which I couldn't see, but I was being watched and right away that puts one in a kind of unnatural situation and I noted the big white lights and again that heightens the unnatural effect. There was something peculiar about the set-up too, it was supposed to look homey or look natural, two chairs and a little table, but again that struck me as unnatural before the big piece of glass and the lights. and then [Mr. R]...who was bubbling over, dancing around, started to talk to me about he liked my suit...the buzzer would ring or something like that, we were supposed to begin...he was being sarcastic or pretty much of a wise guy...And the first thing that entered my mind was to get up and ask him outside immediately...but that was out of the questions, because the electrodes and the movie and all that...I kind of sat there and began to fume and then he went on and he got my goat and I couldn't think of what to say....And then they came along and they took my electrodes off.

    The experiment continued for three years. The subjects were repeatedly forced to watch videos of their interrogation and criticized regarding their reactions. Some have suggested that Murray even gave his subjects LSD, but there's no real evidence of that.

    Many of the former subjects describe the experiment as one of the worst experiences of their life, but the person who responded more strongly to the experiment than anyone else (according to the data recorded at the time of the experiment) was none other than the young Ted Kacynsky.

    Did his strong response to these experiments extend beyond short term physiological reactions into long term psychological harm? Did these experiments actually play a role in turning a promising young genius into a terrorist?
    Lois Skillen, Kaczynski's high school counselor, is among those who believe that the Murray experiment could have been a turning point in Kaczynski's life. Ralph Meister, one of Turk Kacynski's (Kaczynski's father) oldest friends and a retired psychologist who has known Ted Kaczynski since he was a small boy, also raises this possibility. So does one of Murray's own research associates. The TAT results certainly suggest that at the outset of the experiment Kaczynski was mentally healthy, but by the experiment's end judging form Sally Johnson's comments, he was showing the first signs of emotional distress.
    Who knows. But I doubt they helped. Regardless, it certainly is a bizarre story. This is where I first heard if:


    The quotes above came from here:
    http://www.newsmakingnews.com/unabomber article.htm
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010
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  3. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    If he was, essentially, tortured as a teenager, then of course this contributed to his later violence. And given that he likely associated the test with authorities - which would not be wrong - later attempts to make things better by NOT going through the usual channels would seem more logical, given the authorities are people who torture teenagers and lie to them.
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  5. John99 Banned Banned

    To the OP, if this was the case (which is unlikely) then how intelligent can this person relly be? Although coming up with a story like this shows some intelligence but nothing above average. File this under - yeh sure.
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  7. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Subjects are under no compulsion to continue with such experiments. If anything the challenge probably influenced him to think about these issues more thoroughly. If it drove him insane, that's only because he was going to go insane anyway.
  8. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    His IQ was 167 and he got into Harvard at the age of 16. He was such a genius at mathematics that one of professors on his dissertation committee said:
    Maxwell Reade, a retired math professor who served on Kaczynski's dissertation committee, also commented on his thesis by noting, "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it."[14] In 1967,
    The former subjects said they were "pressured" to join and continue with the experiment. As to whether or not he would have gone insane anyway, that's the question. Ever hear of the straw that broke the camel's back?
  9. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    This would essentially mean that experiences can have no effect on sanity.
  10. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

    I take it you reject the considerable volume of research that confirms beyond doubt the susceptibility of most people to peer and authority pressure. That's an interesting take.
  11. clusteringflux Version 1. OH! Valued Senior Member

    Smart and sane aren't the same.
  12. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    He was responding to someone questioning his intelligence? Intelligent and smart pretty much ARE the same.
  13. clusteringflux Version 1. OH! Valued Senior Member

    Thank you, but in context how do you think his intelligence played a role in whether or not " a harvard scientist drove him crazy"?

    How many other subject became terrorists?
    Ted was obviously "speacial" before the experiments.
  14. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that was why John asked about his intelligence, but you can ask him why.
    I don't know. I also don't know how many had psychological disorders later that were not violent.

    Could be? Of course there are tons of weirdos in academia. I don't know what these generally productive people would be like if they were experimented on.
  15. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    Ted (and all the experimental subjects) went thru a huge battery of tests before the experiment and he was definitely sane before being subjected to the experiment.

    Still, Ted was also the youngest subject (at age 16) and showed the strongest physiologic responses to the tests. So he may have been particularly susceptible to it.

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