Standard Article


  1. Donald G. Dutton

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy1000

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Dutton, D. G. 2010. Torture. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. University of British Columbia, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions” (United Nations, 1984). Motives for torture range from sadistic sexual gratification by individuals to the extraction of information by states or religious authorities. The Catholic Church practiced torture officially from the twelfth century until it was outlawed in 1834 (Peters, 1999).


  • coercive methods;
  • interrogation;
  • terrorism;
  • torture