The Hoffman Report: Psychologists and Torture. An Ethical Precaution for Psychologists



The present paper introduces the readers to the Hoffman report — an independent attorney report on American Psychological Association (APA) officials’ participation in institutionalizing and developing torture techniques that were used to interrogate the prisoners of the secret Department of Defense prisons (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, etc.). People in charge of the APA were shown to have changed the ethical standards and APA regulations in such a way as to enable psychologists to participate in the so-called enhanced interrogations. We present the context of the report and the key findings and conclusions. We discuss the reaction of the psychological community and cite a number of papers that analyze the report from the theoretical and empirical standpoint, and reflect on the causes of the events. This situation can be viewed as a precaution for Russian psychologists likewise in making ethical decisions. Conclusion: Ethical codes do not constitute ethics per se nor do they protect from possible ethical violations, partly because abusers often are not just those who know the codes, but also those who write them.

General Information

Keywords: ethics in psychology, torture, American Psychological Association, ethical code, internal ethics

Journal rubric: Essay

Article type: scientific article


Acknowledgements. The author expresses his gratitude to prof. William Purcell (Point Park University, USA), who first introduced him with the Hoffman Report and gave him an idea of ethical codes problematization. The author also expresses his gratitude to his dissertation advisor, prof. Vadim A. Petrovskii (Higher School of Economics, Russia), who inspired his ethical searches. The author also wants to thank dr. Eugene Osin for giving the way to the broad open professional discussion of ethics in conjunction with law.

For citation: Kryuchkov K.S. The Hoffman Report: Psychologists and Torture. An Ethical Precaution for Psychologists. Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2020. Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 148–165. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2020280109. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Kiril S. Kryuchkov, Post Graduate Student of the Personality Psychology Division, Psychology Department, National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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