The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 79: “The Lion and the Unicorn”

In this very important episode of The Arkham Sessions, we discuss “The Lion and the Unicorn,” from Batman: The Animated Series. The story unfolds when Batman’s beloved butler and perhaps his closest companion, Alfred, is kidnapped and tortured. We discuss the role that Alfred plays in Batman’s life — he’s more than just a caretaker, he’s Bruce’s primary source of resiliency, encouragement and support. Social support is one of the most important factors in the prediction of recovery after a trauma and is cited as an essential protective factor or a possible buffer against the development of mental health illnesses.

In addition, we talk about “truth serum,” offering up facts around its neurobiological process and effectiveness (yes, it exists! But does it actually work?).

Finally, the subplot of Alfred’s captivity leads us to a discussion about a serious topic: Torture in the context of the treatment of wartime detainees. We explain the controversial relationship between professional psychologists and U.S. national security. Specifically, we discuss the partnership between American psychologists and the government’s post-911 interrogation program. In fact, some psychologists were not only aware of the unethical interrogations that took place at facilities such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, but assisted and advised the actual CIA program that issued interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, language isolation, and other questionable abuses. Furthermore, correspondence recently disclosed in 2015 revealed that the American Psychological Association coordinated with the Department of Defense to help ethically justify psychologists’ participation in the “enhanced interrogation” program during the Bush Administration. This poses some important, though difficult, questions about the role of psychologists, as Dr. Letamendi elucidates. Should psychologists help with national security issues such as interrogations and counter-terrorism? How can we function as advisors and subject matter experts on national security issues and still adhere to our ethics code to “do no harm?”

Read more about psychologists’ role in the CIA’s torture program.

And you can read more about the psychologist who asserted, “I was just doing my job.”

The Arkham Sessions is a podcast dedicated to the psychology of the show, Batman: The Animated Series.  Have psychology related questions about Batman? Write to us via twitter @ArkhamSessions or on Facebook. Or visit our official website.

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