"By late 2001, the agency had contracted with James E. Mitchell, a psychologist with the SERE program who had monitored many mock interrogations but had never conducted any real ones, according to colleagues. He was known for his belief that a psychological concept called "learned helplessness" was crucial to successful interrogation.
Martin Seligman, a prominent professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who had developed the concept, said in an interview that he was puzzled by Dr. Mitchell’s notion that learned helplessness was relevant to interrogation.
"I think helplessness would make someone more dependent, less defiant and more compliant," Dr. Seligman said, "but I do not think it would lead reliably to more truth-telling."
Still, forceful and brainy, Dr. Mitchell, who declined to comment for this article, became a persuasive player in high-level agency discussions about the best way to interrogate Qaeda prisoners."
"Extending the ramifications of these findings to humans, Seligman and his colleagues found that human motivation to initiate responses is also undermined by a lack of control over one's surroundings. Further research has shown that learned helplessness disrupts normal development and learning and leads to emotional disturbances, especially depression."
"Apart from the shared depression symptoms between human and other animals such as passivity, introjected hostility, weight loss, appetite loss, social and sexual deficits, some of the diagnostic symptoms of learned helplessness -- including depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation -- can be found and observed in human beings but not necessarily in animals."