In Dune, the Atreides family disregarded any evidence of Dr. Yueh being a traitor since he had been certified by Imperial Suk conditioning. This conditioning apparently ensured loyalty to the Emperor and/or their assigned master, although no details are given regarding how it works. The novel repeatedly mentions that Suk conditioning is unbreakable, with Yueh's inner monologue hinting at some sort of mental triggers or hypnotism.

However, as we see in the novel, all it takes for the Harkonnens to break Yueh is to

torture his wife in a pain amplifier.

Given the seeming ease with which this "conditioning" was broken, why is it considered such an infallible stamp of trust?

Note: I am not trying to find the specifics of how the conditioning is done. What I'm trying to ask is why such conditioning is so highly regarded. If torturing a loved one is all it takes to break an initiate of the program - and that seems to be the case for Yueh - it would be useless.

  • IIRC, the Suk conditioning is primarily against killing or otherwise harming other people (not about being loyal). Not that this invalidates the question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:56
  • KHW's answer (in the dupe) addresses this in spades. It's considered unbreakable. It's never been broken (in a century). The conditioning should kills anyone who even considers breaking it.
    – Valorum
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Omegacron - You might not buy it, but that's the in-universe answer
    – Valorum
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:34
  • 1
    @Omegacron - The newer books weren't written by Frank Herbert. They were written by his substantially less talented son.
    – Valorum
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:39
  • 2
    @Omegacron - They should be fired out of a cannon. Into the sun
    – Valorum
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


Reputedly the Suk conditioning guarantees loyalty. There is only one example that it failed, and that example is not common knowledge. So in canon it is the exception that proves the rule.

From Dune:

It’s assumed that ultimate conditioning cannot be removed without killing the subject. However, as someone once observed, given the right lever you can move a planet. We found the lever that moved the doctor.

There is only one theory that fits:
Yueh's wife Wanna was Bene Gesserit, and she made him love her more than life itself. That is rare in itself. That fact was then masterfully utilized by the mentat Piter de Vries to break the conditioning. Unique by now. And still only borderline effective, seeing that the Duke got a shot at the Baron and his wife & son got away.

Again from Dune:

You couldn’t endure seeing your Bene Gesserit witch grovel in Piter’s pain amplifiers.

The poor doctor must have been dead inside. No doubt when it leaks Suk schools will empty. But other than that I see no easy repetition seeing these facts. Also Piter and the Baron will leave it as is as well, repetition will open a can of worms that they want closed.

In Dune are specifics given as to what the "Suk Imperial conditioning" of Dr Yueh actually is?

  • Actually, that makes sense - Jessica told Hawat that if she wanted to, she could force the Duke to love her completely and marry her. If that's what happened in the case of Wanna, and especially if it occurred AFTER the conditioning program, it would provide a unique situation for breaking the programming. The question might get closed, but I'll go ahead and accept this as the answer.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:40
  • @Omegacron Thanks. And for what it is worth, I do not think this is a duplicate. Why highly regarded despite <> How.
    – Bookeater
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:05
  • Is there any evidence that Wanna made Yueh love her? Not saying it's not possible, because it clearly is. I haven't read Dune in a while, but my impression was that he simply loved her very much, and that the Harkonnens were exceedingly good at torture.
    – Dranon
    Oct 18, 2017 at 23:20
  • @Dranon none other than that she was a good BG. She did not conceive from the doctor at the orders of. At the time of the writing of the origin novel Dune she was of course a very minor character.
    – Bookeater
    Oct 19, 2017 at 8:12

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