Dictionary of Gross Human Rights Violations

Sensory Deprivation

Sensory deprivation is a method of torture where stimulus to senses is reduced to the minimum practicable (ex. blindfolding or "hooding," such as occurred in the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal).  This technique can increase the impact of other forms of torture as it contributes to a detainee’s sense of powerlessness and unpredictability.1  Sensory deprivation may produce hallucinations, anxiety, and paranoia.  People are also much more suggestible under sensory deprivation.  Sleep torture (the interruption of normal sleep patterns) produces similar results.



1 Metin Basoglu and Susan Mineka, "The role of uncontrollable and unpredictable stress in post-traumatic stress responses in torture survivors," in Metin Basoglu (ed.), Torture and its Consequences, (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 203.