Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Real Love for Big Cheats: Recurrence

Generically, the experimental method consists of abstracting relevant variables from complex situations in nature and reproducing in the laboratory segments of these situations, varying the parameters involved so as to determine the effect of the experimental variables. . . . However, the use of such a model with animal or human subjects leads to the problem that the subject of the experiment is assumed, at least implicitly, to be a passive responder to stimuli--an assumption difficult to justify.
--Dr. Martin Orne, from “On the Social Psychology of the Psychological Experiment:  With Particular Reference to Demand Characteristics and Their Implications” (American Psychologist, v. 17, 1962)”

Although [experimenters] tend to assume that [subjects] respond passively to instructions and to experimental stimuli, this assumption does not hold up under scrutiny. In most psychological studies the [subject] comes to the laboratory having already agreed to participate in an experiment. Whether he is paid or not, he has reasons of his own for coming. The motives which brought him also give him a real stake in the experimental outcome. These motives should not be taken lightly. If it were not for a considerable emotional investment in the experiment, as would not willingly endure boredom, discomfort or even intense pain with so little apparent resentment.
--Dr. Martin Orne, from “Demand Characteristics and the Set to Cooperate” (18th International Congress of Psychology, Moscow, 1966--funded by the United States Army Medical Research and Development Command and the Office of Naval Research).
As the above quotes would indicate, Dr. Martin Orne saw the laboratory approach to other sciences as an inadequate tool for psychological research.  Whereas the rock doesn’t care if you send a few volts of electricity through it, a human might.  Humans have wills and agendas.  They deceive (thus throwing off data).  They don’t tend to be nearly as passive as physical phenomena, or as predictable as experimental animals. 

That said, one could surmise that Dr. Orne learned what he could from the situations he encountered.  Of course, he did his fair share of laboratory research, under conditions that were tightly controlled--just like any scientist.  But what he actually learned seemed to come not only from these experiments, but also from other opportunities that afforded him some insight to his  research. 

It is in that regard that I find his sessions with Anne Sexton interesting.  We know some of the things that Dr. Orne worked on.  We know some of the projects he became involved with.  We know some of the things his colleagues and contemporaries researched on behalf of the military and Intel.  And we know these things because of two US Senate investigations--one chaired in 1974 by Sen. Sam Erwin, and another chaired jointly by Sens. Daniel Inouye and Ted Kennedy in 1977--and a 1975 Vice-Presidential commission that delved into Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), CIA and military efforts to control the minds of individuals and groups.  We also know the topics of Sexton’s therapy because Orne released a good deal of information about it by granting interviews with a biographer, and by providing tapes of actual sessions.  Thus we can see, in her therapy, issues relevant to MK-ULTRA research.

For starters, one of the major themes that recurs in the course of Sexton’s therapy is her compulsion to deceive Dr. Orne:  what she referred to as “truth crimes.”  Beginning in 1963, Orne subsequently wrote, or co-authored,* some seventeen papers on the topic of detecting subject deception.  One of the primary goals of MK-ULTRA was to create the perfect spy, the spy who could not be turned, the spy who could deceive the enemy, but not you.  So even in this minor matter, Sexton, early on, forced Orne to consider and seriously deal with subject matter that would later prove important to the military and intelligence parties sponsoring his research.

In a more acute example, Sexton exhibited evidence of self-induced trance states.  These interrupted her treatment by preventing her from remembering what had occurred from session to session.  Hypnosis was a major focus of MK-ULTRA, as evidenced by Dr. Orne’s contractual work for the CIA’s Subproject #84, “Hypnosis Work.”  Drs. George Estabrooks, William Kroger, William J. Bryan and others assisted the hypnosis research conducted by the Agency.  According to John Marks’ FOIA documents, Orne arranged to send case files of hypnotized subjects to the CIA’s chief resident psychiatrist, Dr. John Gittinger, who would subsequently perform assessments on them, in order to correlate personality traits with hypnotic susceptibility.  A study titled “Validation and Cross Validation of a Scale of Self-Reported Personal Experiences which Predicts Hypnotizability” (Journal of Psychology, v. 53, 1962), co-authored with Drs. Ronald Shor and Donald O’Connell, not only had direct bearing on people like Anne, who had “’hypnotic-like’ experiences…in the normal course of living,”  but also suggested no correlation between susceptibility and personality type.  While that might seem to contradict Gittinger’s efforts to correlate the two, it could well be the case that the CIA’s resident shrink found no connection, and Orne subsequently included that information in this hypothesis:
An important deduction from these formulations is the prediction that most individuals who can readily become profound hypnotic subjects have had many profound ‘hypnotic-like’ experiences which have occurred naturally in the normal course of living. The theory supposes that these individuals have the ability to suspend their usual generalized reality-orientation so that ‘hypnotic-like’ experiences can occur. This hypothesized ability has been termed tranceability which is a component of, but is distinct from, hypnotizability. In other words, it is hypothesized that at least one permanent attribute of mental functioning lies behind the ability to achieve profound hypnosis. Such an attribute, conceived as a cognitive ability, is viewed as cutting across the currently common classifications of personality traits, such as hysteria or submissiveness.

If we believe what Dr. Orne told Dr. Diane Middlebrook, then Sexton was highly hypnotizable, someone who would have achieved the highest score on any hypnotic susceptibility scale.**   Such persons were of value to MK-ULTRA researchers who, as early as Dr. Estabrook’s research in the 1930s, realized that not all people were equally hypnotizable.  Those on the high end of hypnotic susceptibility might possibly be more malleable to coercion and control.  Dr. Herbert Spiegel, who developed his own susceptibility test, the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP), personally examined such subjects as Candy Jones and Sirhan Sirhan, and found that they were extremely vulnerable to trance states, and thus highly susceptible to hypnotic suggestion.  

We would have no way of knowing if Dr. Orne made Sexton’s case file available to Dr. Gittinger.  And although he discussed Sexton’s trance states with Dr. Middlebrook, at no time did Dr. Orne claim to have hypnotized her.  And, as “Validation and Cross Validation” would indicate, he saw naturally induced trance states as distinct from hypnotized trance states.  At the same time, he saw the very nature of trances worthy of study in future research.  As he wrote in “The Nature of Hypnosis:  Artifact and Essence” (Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, v. 58, 1959):
The third aspect of hypnosis, the altered state of consciousness, presents the greatest problem for investigation, yet it has been felt necessary to include the concept in all attempts to explain the phenomenon. This residual aspect, which remains after increased motivation and role-playing are accounted for, may be regarded as the ‘essence’ of hypnosis, with reference to which increased motivation and role-playing appear as artifacts.

Reviewing Sexton’s treatment, we know that Dr. Orne taped a number of these sessions.   He made them in response to her inability to recall previous sessions, because of what he claimed were slips into trances. Being in a trance state in and of itself would not preclude Sexton from remembering a session.  But if she were under significant stress during the sessions themselves, then that could account for both the trance states and the dissociative amnesia that she endured.  We would thus have to wonder about (or assess) why Sexton might have stressed out talking to Dr. Orne. 

Although I am loath to consider this a possibility, one cannot rule out a scenario in which Dr. Orne simply hypnotized her early on in his treatment of her.  This could obviously explain the trance states.  In his work, he wrote extensively about post-hypnotic amnesia, which could also explain the forgetfulness.  Because the earlier sessions were not taped, we would have no way of knowing what might have occurred between him and Sexton other than the former's depiction of events.  And as we have seen earlier, in his dealings with John Marks, Orne sometimes mischaracterized situations to distance himself from his prior work with Intel.  Then too, one has to wonder why this only seems to have been an issue with Orne, since Sexton experienced highly stressful events throughout her life without having the difficulty of memory that only seemed to manifest itself with Dr. Orne. 

On the other hand, Sexton was prone to such bizarre behavior as masturbating in front of her children.  One could posit that she might have committed this and other, more self-destructive, acts during a state of self-induced trance.  It’s conceivable that she did not remember them, hence they were not discussed within the family during her lifetime.  And just about everyone stipulates that Sexton found domestic life exceedingly stressful, so this could have exacerbated her tendency to tune in and drop out.

Sexton’s trance states and deception are but two subjects encountered by Dr. Orne that he would later deal with in future research, studies that would have some importance to his work with MK-ULTRA and other indoctrination programs.  Perhaps other researchers can see more.  But in the next and final post in this series on Anne Sexton, I would like to explore several additional themes that recur both in her psychoanalysis and in studies on what fellow MK-ULTRA researcher Dr. Margaret Singer referred to as “thought reform.”

*For the bulk of these, he partnered with Dr. Lawrence Gustafson (Harvard), and Dr. Richard Thackray (University of Pennsylvania).

**If you click on the link, you’ll note that Martin’s wife, Emily Carota Orne, co-designed the Harvard Group Scale with his research partner, Dr. Shor.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Real Love for Big Cheats: Themes

The bulk of this series has focused on Anne Sexton, her mental illness, her work, her success as a poet, her inability to get along with family, and so on.  What drew me to this subject, however, was not Sexton herself, but rather her therapist, Dr. Martin Orne. As I commented to our friend Susan earlier in this series, this is a conspiracy blog, not a literary one.  And Orne was a key player in MK-ULTRA mind-control experimentation, and a pivotal figure in the history of hypnosis.  

Although I have thoroughly enjoyed Sexton’s work over the course of the summer, this series offered an opportunity to explore the mind and methodology of Dr. Orne.  As a psychiatrist, he obviously saw patients.  But he spent the bulk of his professional time teaching at such Ivy League Institutions as Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, and doing research for the US military and intelligence interests.  So any information that indicates how he actually handled patients becomes rather important.

I read Dr. Diane Middlebrook’s biography because I knew of Dr. Orne’s direct involvement with it.  Not only did he supply the tapes, but he gave extensive information to Middlebrook in interviews, and even wrote the book’s foreword.  So I reckoned that by reading it, I could gain some insight as to how he approached patients, their treatment, and ultimately their healing.  It thus surprised me how often MK-ULTRA themes emerged in during his psychoanalysis of Sexton.  In other words, subjects of interest to the CIA at that time--especially those pertaining to Dr. Orne’s expertise--seem to crop up over and over during Anne's taped sessions, and in other aspects of her care described by Orne to Middlebrook.

I’m not suggesting that Dr. Orne used Sexton as an MK-ULTRA guinea pig;  although I cannot rule out the possibility, I highly doubt it.  Likewise, I wouldn’t suggest that Orne attempted to create a Manchurian Poet out of Sexton, or anything like that.  In fact, my first guess is that, in general, Orne accurately depicted the relationship as that between dedicated doctor and a genuinely troubled patient.

At the same time, I believe there was more to that relationship, given the content of what they discussed.  You see, Orne always spoke of Sexton as a “difficult” patient.  But just as often he stressed that she was generous, and had  a strong (one could say neurotic) need to be helpful.  And we have good reason to believe that she helped him quite a bit. 

Because MK-ULTRA themes came up so often in the course of psychoanalysis, we can  prove at least one instance (and possibly others) where Orne’s association with Sexton informed his research.  In other words, while Orne, Middlebrook, Maxine Kumin and others (rightly) saw the psychiatrist as a guiding figure in Sexton’s life and work, Anne, perhaps unwittingly, might have been just as much a guiding figure in his life and work.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Real Love for Big Cheats: Bond. Dr. Bond

What's missing is the eyeballs
in each of us, but it doesn't matter
because you've got the bucks, the bucks, the bucks.
You let me touch them, fondle the green faces
lick at their numbers and it lets you be
my 'Daddy! ' 'Daddy! ' and though I fought all alone
with molesters and crooks, I knew your money
would save me, your courage, your 'I've had
considerable experience as a soldier...

But I died yesterday,
'Daddy, ' I died,
swallowing the Nazi-Jap animal
and it won't get out
it keeps knocking at my eyes,
my big orphan eyes,
kicking! Until eyeballs pop out
and even my dog puts up his four feet
and lets go
of his military secret
with his big red tongue
flying up and down
like yours should have

as we board our velvet train.
--Anne Sexton, from “Daddy Warbucks
A casual glance at Dr. Martin Orne’s curriculum vitae turns up some pretty interesting items, especially during the years he served as Anne Sexton’s primary psychoanalyst.  In 1957, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the (US) National Institute of Health (NIH).  From 1959-1962 he received grant money from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for an Investigation of the Nature and Uses of Hypnosis as a Control Technique, followed by a subsequent grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for a Scientific Investigation of Personality Attributes of Good Subjects.  He collected additional grant monies from the United States Army Medical Research and Development Command for Studies in the Detection of Deception (1963-1964), in addition to receiving two additional grants from the National Institute of Mental Health for Studies in Hypnosis (1959-1964 and 1964-1966).  After his move to Philadelphia, Orne continued to treat or consult with Sexton until 1973, during which time he worked on a number of other government-funded research projects, most of them dealing with aspects of military and intelligence.

What’s not in his CV, but nevertheless evident in the public record, is Dr. Orne’s work for the Central Intelligence Agency.  He contributed a chapter titled “The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation” to the 1961 book The Manipulation of Human Behavior, co-edited by Albert Biderman and Herbert Zimmer.  An organization called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (SIHE) funded the research.*

SIHE grew out of the CIA-funded study groups formed by Dr. Harold Wolff, a neurology and psychiatry professor at Cornell University. In 1955, Wolff incorporated these groups as SIHE, and with the help of  Dr. Lawrence Hinkle (Cornell Medical Center) completed a brainwashing study for future-DCI Allen Dulles in 1956.  In short, the SIHE constituted the Agency’s “window into the behavioral sciences.”

Dr. Orne’s personal lab, the Institute of Experimental Psychiatry, received a $30,000 SIHE grant in 1962.  That same year, he received an additional $30,000 (over $224k in 2011 dollars) from the Scientific Engineering Institute, identified by former US State Department intelligence officer John D. Marks and other researchers as another CIA research front.  In preparation for his 1979 book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate:  The CIA and Mind Control, Marks corresponded with Dr. Orne about the latter’s involvement with the CIA’s mind control research program, Project MK-ULTRA.  As noted by Marks, Orne first attempted to deny his relationship to the CIA.  He backed off of that position, later saying that he did not wittingly participate in CIA-related scholarship.  Instead, he fondly reminisced that SIHE (due to its secrecy) required “no stupid progress reports.” 

Because of a FOIA suit that liberated some 16,000 pages of documentation, Marks knew that Orne was deeply involved in CIA research, in particular MK-ULTRA Subproject #84, blandly titled “Hypnosis Work.”**  Moreover, the nature of his grant monies would suggest that Orne had to have known that the CIA had orchestrated their dissemination to him.  As Marks wrote about Orne’s $30K SIHE grant, the money itself had:
…no specified purpose....Orne could use it as he wished. He believes the money was ‘a contingency investment’ in his work, and MKULTRA officials agree. ‘We could go to Orne anytime,’ says one of them, ‘and say, 'Okay, here is a situation and here is a kind of guy. What would you expect we might be able to achieve if we could hypnotize him?' Through his massive knowledge, he could speculate and advise.’ A handful of other Society grantees also served in similar roles as covert Agency consultants in the field of their expertise.
In other words, the CIA had Dr. Orne on retainer, so to speak.  Thus, he had to have had knowledge of where his grant money came from, and its purpose.  That he participated in research programs with the National Institute of Health, which also fostered MK-ULTRA, and received additional grants from the military, which not only assisted MK-ULTRA but conducted its own mind-control research to boot, indicates that Dr. Orne had become quite embedded in the research culture of Intel from very early in his career.

More to our concerns here, Dr. Orne embarked on all of these assignments during his care of one Anne Sexton.  To sum up what I’ve previously written on MK-ULTRA, the major stated purpose was to create the perfect spy, the asset who could not be turned in the face of psychological indoctrination, intimidation, guilt or torture.  On a broader scale, however, MK-ULTRA endeavored to discover what made humans “tick,” how to push the individual's “buttons,” and how to gain control and manipulate the understanding and behavior of individuals and groups. 

Curiously, because a doctor heavily involved with MK-ULTRA released an extraordinary amount of Sexton’s personal medical information, we can see some MK-ULTRA themes recurring in Anne’s treatment.
* You will find this particular organization referred to by a number of names and acronyms, from the Human Ecology Foundation (HEF) to the Human Ecology Society.  These are not to be confused with the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) or similarly named organizations that have no apparent ties to Intel.

**MK-ULTRA consisted of 149 subprojects, a few of which are still classified.  The bulk of them are administrative in nature, or so it would seem from their titles. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Case You're Wondering....

My series on Anne Sexton and Martin Orne got waylaid by several things.  First, I had a freelance deadline to meet.  Second, my nephews came to Cincy for a fun (but really hectic) week.  So I spent all my time with them.

The kids left for New England on Saturday, and I said to myself, "Finally.  I'll get some writing done."

Influenza had something else in mind.  I fell ill last Saturday and haven't recovered yet.  Yeah, I'm a wuss.  But when everything hurts, the last thing I want to think about is writing.

I'm much better than I was on Sunday (worst day).  And have made slow progress to normalcy (?) since.  When I'm back up to 80%, you'll finally get my IP address on your Sitemeter.

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