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Dissociation and amnesia: A study with male offenders

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+Address for correspondence: Barry S. Cooper, Ph.D., Paul Ekman Group, Training Division, P.O. Box 600, Salt
Spring Island, BC, Canada, V8K 2W2; Email: CooperBS@CSC-SCC.GC.CA
International Journal of Forensic Psychology
Copyright 2006
Volume 1, No. 3 SEPTEMBER 2006 pp. 69-83
Dissociation and Amnesia: A Study with Male Offenders
Barry S. Cooper.1+; Carrie Cuttler.2; Paul Dell.3; and John C. Yuille.4
1 Department of Psychology, Matsqui Institution, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC); 2
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; 3 Trauma
Recovery Center, Norfolk, Virginia, USA; 4 Paul Ekman Group-Training Division, Salt Spring
Island, BC, Canada.
Abstract
Offenders often claim to have committed their crimes in a dissociative state and some
allege amnesia for their criminal actions. Although much research has examined
dissociative and related phenomena, such as amnesia, in victims and witnesses to
traumatic and criminal events, little research has investigated dissociation in incarcerated
offenders, particularly in relation to their offences. The present study used the
Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire (PDEQ), the Dissociative
Experiences Scale (DES), and the Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociation (MID) to
examine a number of issues concerning dissociative and related phenomena in
incarcerated male offenders. Thirty-four percent of the sample reported amnesia for their
most recent criminal offence. Among other results, participants’ reports of state
dissociation at the time of their criminal offences were associated with trait dissociation
and amnesia for their offences. However, the reported mean state dissociation was not
particularly elevated during the offences. Implications for cognitive and correctional
psychology are discussed.
Keywords: Dissociation; amnesia; offenders; correctional psychology
INTRODUCTION
In a recent capital murder case, the defendant was
found guilty of beating his wife to death (State of
Washington vs. Waldradt, 2000). The defendant
claimed he committed the murderous act of
violence in an altered, dissociative state of
consciousness and that he was amnestic for parts of
the violence. He reported experiencing symptoms
of dissociation such as detachment, emotional
numbing, and altered time perception during the
murder. With the assistance of the first author, a
psychologist used a series of psychometric
inventories to assess whether the defendant
experienced dissociation earlier in his life and
during the homicide. Based on these inventories
and a comprehensive clinical evaluation, the
psychologist subsequently testified that the man
had experienced valid symptoms of dissociation at
the time of his offence and that his claim of partial
amnesia was credible. The court concluded the
defendant murdered his wife in a state of
diminished capacity. Although the defendant was
found guilty and was sentenced to life
imprisonment, he was spared the death penalty.
It is not uncommon for expert witnesses to
address the constructs of dissociation and amnesia
during criminal trials. As with many cases, the
Cooper, B.S., Cuttler, C., Dell, P., and Yu ille, J.C.
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validity of reports of dissociative phenomena, and
related psychological constructs such as amnesia,
are primary issues affecting legal decisions (Cima,
Merckelbach, Nijman, Knauer, & Hollnack, 2002;
Porter, Birt, Yuille, & Hervé, 2001; Porter,
Campbell, Birt, & Woodworth, 2003). Although a
large body of research has examined dissociative
phenomena in victims and witnesses to crime and
trauma (Cooper, Kennedy, & Yuille, 2001;
Mechanic, Resick, & Griffin, 1998; Spiegel &
Cardeña, 1991), curiously, little research has
examined dissociation in perpetrators of crime.
Indeed, as of 2003, only 10 empirical studies on
dissociative phenomena in incarcerated samples
had been published (Dietrich, 2003) and only a
handful have since been completed. As a result of
this relative dearth of research, when perpetrators
present with dissociative and related phenomena,
expert psychologists, in an attempt to educate the
triers of fact, often generalize the research on
dissociation in victims and witnesses to the
perpetrator context. Although it is logical to assume
that many of the strong associations apparent in the
victim and witness literature would hold true with
perpetrators of crime (e.g., the association between
state and trait dissociation; the association between
dissociation and amnesia), little research has
addressed the validity of these generalizations. This
lack of research formed the impetus for the present
investigation. This study was designed to examine a
number of issues that have both theoretical and
practical importance concerning dissociative and
related phenomena in offenders. The primary
objectives were: (a) to examine the rates of state
and trait dissociation in offenders; (b) to investigate
the association between state and trait dissociation;
(c) to examine the frequency of claims of amnesia
for offences; and (d) to assess the relationship
between dissociation and amnesia. The two
secondary objectives were to (a) investigate the
variables associated with the field-observer
perspective distinction; and (b) to examine the
construct validity of a relatively new measure of
trait dissociation, the Multidimensional Inventory
of Dissociation (MID; Dell, 2000), through its
association with the Dissociative Experiences Scale
(DES; Bernstein-Carlson & Putnam, 1993) and the
Peritraumatic Dissociative Events Questionnaire
(PDEQ; Marmar & Weiss, 1994).
Below is a brief review of the construct of
dissociation, followed by a review of the literature
pertaining to the dissociative and amnestic
experiences of witnesses, victims and, to a lesser
extent, perpetrators of crime.
The Construct of Dissociation
The construct of dissociation has a rich clinical
history stemming from Pierre Janet’s classic studies
on hysteria (Janet, 1920). As he discussed over a
century ago, psychological trauma can cause a
variety of acute and chronic psychological after
effects (Foa & Hearst-Ikeda, 1996; Gershuny &
Thayer, 1999; Kihlstrom, Glisky, & Angiulo, 1994;
van der Kolk, 1996; van der Kolk & van der Hart,
1989). In contemporary nomenclature, many of
these psychological consequences are classified
under the rubric of dissociation (American
Psychological Association [APA], 2000). In terms
of acute reactions to trauma, some individuals
experience state dissociative alterations of
consciousness (Candel & Merckelbach, 2004). For
example, a person who dissociates during an event
may experience state symptoms of dissociation
such as depersonalization (‘I don’t feel connected
to myself’) and/or derealization (‘this just doesn’t
seem real’; Marmar et al., 1994). Other forms of
state dissociation include alterations in sense of
time and ‘out of body’ experiences, during which
the person observes what is happening to
him/herself from a vantage point outside the body
(Cooper, Yuille, & Kennedy, 2002; Yuille &
Daylen, 1998).
State dissociation is often viewed as a defensive
reaction that blunts the acute psychological impact
of a stressful experience (Chu, 1998; Spiegel,
1993). However, chronic dissociation is often
related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
dissociative disorders (Spiegel & Cardeña, 1991),
and/or dissociative amnesia (Mechanic et al., 1998).
Further, individuals with PTSD and/or dissociative
disorders and/or amnesia often show elevated levels
of trait dissociation (Bernstein & Putman, 1986;
Cardeña, 1994; Merckelbach & Muris, 2001;
Putnam, 1993). That is, due to their prior traumatic
experiences, some individuals dissociate in
everyday life (not just during traumas; Chu & Dill,
1990; Dell, 2000; Putman, 1995; Zatzick, Marmar,
Weiss, & Metzler, 1994).
Dissociation and Amnesia in Victims and Witnesses
As indicated above, most research on dissociation
has focused on victims and witnesses to traumatic
and/or criminal events. Dissociative responses have
been researched in relation to a wide variety of
crimes and traumas including physical and sexual
abuse (e.g., Chu & Dill, 1990; Darves-Bornoz,
1997; Dunmore, Clark, & Ehlers, 1999; Herman,
1996; Mechanic et al., 1998; Spiegel & Cardeña,
1991), natural disasters (e.g., Koopman, Classen, &
Speigal, 1994), torture (Weisaeth, 1989), and
combat (e.g., Marmar et al. 1994). Most of these
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studies have shown that traumatized samples have
significantly higher levels of trait dissociation than
nontraumatized controls (Foa & Hearst-Ikeda,
1996; Gershuny & Thayer, 1999; Putman, 1995).
Researchers have also consistently demonstrated
significant associations between state and trait
dissociation in traumatized individuals. For
example, Marmar et al. (1994) reported a modest
association (r = .41) between trait and state
dissociation in Vietnam veterans who
retrospectively rated their ‘most threatening’
combat experience. Cooper (1999) showed a
similar association (r = .57) between state and trait
dissociation in a sample of prostitutes who
described their experiences of sexual trauma. More
recently, Hunter and Andrews (2000) demonstrated
that state and trait dissociation were associated (r =
.33) in a sample of women with histories of
childhood sexual abuse.
Not only have researchers reported relatively
robust correlations between state and trait
dissociation in traumatized samples, some
researchers have shown that both state and trait
dissociation are at least partially related to amnesia.
For example, Mechanic et al. (1988) demonstrated
that 37% of the rape victims in their study attested
to “significant levels of amnesia for parts of the
rape” (p. 952) and that the levels of state
dissociation reported during the rape experiences
were associated with such amnesia. Similarly,
Hunter and Andrews (2000) showed that high
levels of trait dissociation were associated with
amnesia for abuse experiences in a sample of adult
victims of childhood sexual abuse.
As stated above, an interesting aspect of state
dissociation is the tendency for some individuals to
perceive their traumatic/criminal experiences from
the perspective of an observer, as opposed to taking
the more frequently experienced field perspective
(i.e., through one’s own eyes; Schacter, 1996).
Commonly, when individuals take observer
perspectives, they reportedly view the event and
themselves from a detached viewpoint (Yuille &
Daylen, 1998). For example in Cooper’s (1999)
study, one participant described her rape experience
from the perspective of the light fixture on her
bedroom ceiling. Unfortunately, little forensically
relevant research attention has addressed the
observer perspective phenomenon. In one study,
Cooper et al. (2002) asked a sample of prostitutes
to recall three experiences: a positive experience, an
experience of sexual trauma, and an experience of
non-sexual trauma. Those who took an observer
perspective during their experiences reported
significantly higher levels of state dissociation than
those who took a field perspective.
Dissociation and Amnesia in Offenders
As opposed to the large body of research that has
investigated dissociative phenomena and amnesia
in victims and witnesses to criminal and/or
traumatic experiences, little research has examined
dissociation in criminal offenders (for a review, see
Porteus & Taintor, 2000). This is somewhat
surprising because both theory and the extant
empirical evidence suggests there may be some
interesting relationships between criminal acts,
dissociation, and amnesia (Hervé, Cooper, Yuille,
& Daylen, 2002, 2003; Porter et al., 2001). For
example, many offenders claim to have dissociated
during the commission of their crimes (Cooper,
Hervé, Kendrick, & Yuille, 2003) and some claim
amnesia for their criminal offences (Cima,
Merckelbach, Hollnack, & Knauer, in press; Cima
et al., 2002; Kopelman, 1987; Leitch, 1948;
O'Connell, 1960; Parwatikar, Holcomb, &
Menninger, 1985; Pyszora, Barker, & Kopelman,
2003; Taylor & Kopelman, 1984). Furthermore,
some offenders develop PTSD as a consequence of
their criminal actions (Kruppa, Hickey, & Hubbard,
1995; Pollock, 1999) --- and, at least with victims,
there is evidence linking PTSD with state
dissociative symptoms (Bernat, Ronfeldt, Calhoun,
& Arias, 1998; Cardeña et al., 1998; Dietrich, 2003;
Koopman, Classen & Spiegel, 1994; Liebowitz et
al., 1998; Griffin, Resick, & Mechanic, 1997).
Thus, for some offenders, committing some types
of crimes is traumatic (Byrne, 2003).
As with the victim literature, some studies with
offenders with trauma histories have shown that
many offenders present with considerable levels of
trait dissociation. For example, Ellason and Ross
(1999) used the DES and reported a mean trait
dissociation score of 25.4 in a sample of 13 male
sex offenders, considerably higher than the mean
score typically found in the general population
(e.g., 3.7 7.8; Bernstein-Carlson, & Putnam,
1993). Similarly, in Dietrich’s (2003) investigation
of 93 adult offenders, many scored higher on a
measure of trait dissociation than individuals from
the general population (also see McLeod, Byrne, &
Aitken, 2004). While it is logical to generalize from
the victim literature and assume that, as with
victims, offenders’ reports of state dissociation
during the commission of their crimes are related to
their levels of trait dissociation, to date, only a few
studies have examined the association between
state and trait dissociation in criminal offenders.
Consistent with the findings with victims, Simoneti,
Scott, and Murphy (2000) reported a significant
association (r = .44) between trait dissociation and
violence-specific (i.e., state) dissociation in men
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charged with domestic abuse. A similar association
(r = .38) was reported by McLeod et al. who used
the revised PDEQ (Marshall, Orlando, Jaycox, Foy,
& Belzberg, 2002) to measure offence-specific (i.e.,
state) dissociation in a sample of 86 Australian
offenders. In terms of state dissociation and
memory, McLeod et al. demonstrated that state
dissociation was negatively associated with reports
of memory for crimes. Surprisingly, few other
studies have used the PDEQ to assess for state
dissociation in offenders and no published studies
have applied the field-observer distinction to
offenders.
Clearly, there are a host of untested assumptions
and findings that merit replication in the area of
dissociation and offending. The present
investigation was constructed to assess a few of
these assumptions that have support in the victim
literature and to replicate other under-investigated
findings in the offender literature. The study had
the following main objectives: (a) to examine the
rates of state and trait dissociation in offenders; (b)
to investigate the association between state and trait
dissociation; (c) to assess the rate of claims of
amnesia for offences; and (d) to examine the
association between dissociation and amnesia in
offenders. The two secondary objectives were to (a)
to examine the variables associated with the field-
observer perspective distinction; and (b) to examine
the construct validity of a relatively new measure of
trait dissociation, the MID (Dell, 2000).
METHOD
Participants
Fifty male offenders who were incarcerated at
Mountain Institution, a medium- security Canadian
Federal Penitentiary located in Agassiz, British
Columbia, Canada, participated in the study
between May and August 2001. Mountain
Institution is a protective custody prison which
houses a disproportionate number of offenders
convicted of sexual crimes. The offenders’ mean
age was 35.02 (SD = 9.16; range = 21-56). Sixty-
eight percent were Caucasian, 12% were
Aboriginal, and 2% were Asian. The remainder
claimed to be a mixture of ethnic groups. The
present mean age and ethnic background is
consistent with other research in Canadian federal
penitentiaries (e.g., Cooper & Yuille, in press-a).
Participants reported a mean of 11.61 (SD = 9.16;
range = 1-26) years of education. Their index
offences (i.e., their most recent offences) were
classified as violent (52%; e.g., murder,
manslaughter, assault), sexual (30%; e.g., sexual
assault), or property (12%). The remaining three
participants were convicted of arson, people
smuggling, and drug trafficking.
Measures
Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences
Questionnaire (PDEQ). The first version of the
PDEQ (Marmar & Weiss, 1994) is a 10-item scale
that measures participants’ retrospective accounts
of state dissociative symptomatology regarding a
specified incident. With their index offence in
mind, participants were asked to rate, using a Likert
format, the degree to which they experienced
altered body image, altered time perception,
amnesia, an out of body experience, derealization,
and depersonalization (i.e., 0 = no; 1 = a little bit; 2
= definitely). For the purposes of this study, one
question was removed (i.e., “Did you get the
feeling that something that was happening to
someone else was happening to you?”) because it
was deemed confusing by participants in past
research (Cooper, 1999). Thus, in the present study,
PDEQ scores could range from 0 to 18, with higher
scores representing higher peritraumatic
dissociation. PDEQ scores have been shown to be
significantly related to DES scores and to PTSD
symptoms (Marmar et al., 1994). The PDEQ is
routinely used a measure of state dissociation in
both research and clinical practice and has sound
psychometric properties (e.g., internal consistency
ranging from .75-.85; test-retest reliability of .85;
intraclass correlation coefficient of .85; Marshall et
al., 2002).
Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). The
second edition of the DES (Carlson & Putnam,
1993) is a 28-item self-report inventory of trait
dissociation that yields a mean score of 0-100. The
instructions for the DES specify that the questions
pertain only to times when the person was not
under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The
DES reliably distinguishes between normal adults,
those with PTSD, and those with Dissociative
Identity Disorder (DID; Bernstein & Putnam,
1986). Test-retest reliability, internal reliability,
construct validity (e.g., discriminative, convergent,
and criterion), and other psychometric properties
are excellent (Carlson & Putnam, 1993; van
IJzendoorn & Schuengel, 1996). Since 1998, the
DES had been used in over 250 published articles
(Carlson, Armstrong, Loewenstein, & Roth, 1998).
The Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociation
(MID). The MID 4.0 (Dell, 2000) is a 259-item
self-report measure of trait dissociation.
Participants respond to each question on a 10-point
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Likert scale. As with the DES, participants in the
present study were instructed that the questions
pertain only to times when they were not under the
influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The 13 primary
scales of the MID measure specific dimensions of
dissociation: memory problems, depersonalization,
derealization, flashbacks, somatoform dissociation,
trance, identity confusion, voices, ego alien
experiences, self-states and alters, self-alteration,
discontinuities of time, and disremembered
behaviors. Cronbach alpha v alues for the
dimensions of dissociation in American and Israeli
samples have been reported to range from .96 to .98
(Dell, 2000; Somer & Dell, 2005). The MID also
includes five validity scales: defensiveness,
neurotic suffering, attention seeking behavior, rare
symptoms, and factitious behavior. MID scores
have the same 0-100 metric as DES scores, and are
thus easily comparable to DES scores (Dell, 2001;
Lauterbach, Somer, & Dell, 2001). Mean scores on
the MID have been shown to be highly correlated
with mean scores on the DES (r = .85-.94; Dell,
2000; Somer & Dell, 2005; Somer, Dell, &
Levinger, 2001).
Procedure
Participants were recruited through posters, ‘word
of mouth’, and by calls to their living units.
Participants were informed that the study was about
dissociation and, for those that enquired, a brief
description of the construct of dissociation was
provided. They were assured of confidentiality and
were informed that participation was completely
voluntary and would in no way affect anything
related to their sentence management. The second
author collected the data in the psychology
department at Mountain institution. The majority of
the participants completed the study individually
with little to no assistance from the second author.
However, on the rare occasion, two or three
participants completed the study simultaneously in
different areas of the psychology department.
Occasionally, participants asked for clarification
concerning items on the questionnaires. In such
instances, terms and concepts were fully explained.
On two occasions, participants claimed to have
been illiterate and were consequently read the
questionnaires.
The majority of the participants completed the
MID, the DES, and the PDEQ in one session.
Occasionally, a participant comp leted the study in
two sessions due to an institutional ‘lock-down’ or
another institutional related interruption (e.g.,
count, meals). The administration of the scales was
counterbalanced into a Latin square design to
prevent an ordering effect. Upon completion of the
PDEQ, participants were asked if they were under
the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of
the commission of their index offence. Participants
received a $5 honorarium for their participation.
RESULTS
Rates of Dissociation
Participants’ mean scores on the MID, the DES,
and the PDEQ are provided in Table 1.
Table 1
Rates of Dissociation
Scale Means
X
SD
Range
MID
9.76
11.73
0-55
DES
10.92
10.35
0-37.5
PDEQ
6.50
5.89
0-18
Relationships Between Trait and State Dissociation
As illustrated in Table 2, total scores on all
three measures were significantly correlated
(Pearson 2-tailed correlations were conducted).
Cooper, B.S., Cuttler, C., Dell, P., and Yu ille, J.C.
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Table 2
Relationships between State and Trait Dissociation
PDEQ
DES
MID
PDEQ
---
---
---
DES
.52*
---
---
MID
.31**
.76*
---
* p < .01 ** p < .05
Dissociation and Amnesia
Question number 8 on the PDEQ was used to assess
for amnesia for the offenders’ offences (i.e., “Were
you surprised to find out after the event that a lot of
things happened at the time that you were not aware
of, especially things that you felt you ordinarily
would have noticed?”). Participants were
dichotomized based on their answers to this
question. That is, participants who reported
“definitely” on this item were considered to have
reported amnesia. Using this definition, 34% (n=
17) of the participants reported having amnesia for
at least parts of their reported offences. When the
amnesic group was compared to the non-amnesic
group, their PDEQ scores for item 8 were removed
from the total PDEQ scores as to not artificially
inflate the associations between amnesia and state
dissociation.
As Table 3 illustrates, participants who reported
amnesia for their index offences reported
significantly higher levels of state dissociation than
those who did not report amnesia (t[48] = 5.67, p <
0.001).
Table 3
State Dissociation (PDEQ) and Amnesia
State Dissociation
X
SD
N
No
Amnesia
3.27
3.60
33
Amnesia
*10.29
5.08
17
* p < .001
As shown in Table 4, in comparison to participants
who did not report amnesia for their index offenses,
those who reported amnesia had sign ificantly
higher levels of trait dissociation on the DES but
not on the MID (DES: t[48] = 2.10, p < .05; MID:
t’[19.72] = 1.64, p > .10).
Table 4
Trait Dissociation and Amnesia
Trait Dissociation (MID)
Trait Dissociation (DES)
X
SD
N
X
SD
n
No
Amnesia
7.42
7.72
33
8.80
9.06
33
Amnesia
14.30
16.41
17
*15.03
11.71
17
* p < .05
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75
Field vs. Observer Perspectives: State and Trait
Dissociation
PDEQ Item 5 asked participants (regarding their
index offence), “Were there moments when you felt
as though you were a spectator watching what was
happening to you-for example, did you feel as if
you were floating above the scene or observing as
an outsider?” Based on their responses to this item,
participants were dichotomized as either having a
field perspective (i.e., perceiving through one’s
own eyes) or an observer perspective (i.e.,
perceiving oneself from an outside vantage point).
Participants who indicated “definitely” on this item
were considered to have reportedly taken an
observer perspective during their index offences.
Using this definition, 10% (n= 5) of the participants
reported an observer perspective during their
reported offences. When the observer group was
compared to the field group concerning state
dissociation, their PDEQ scores for item 5 were
removed from the total PDEQ scores as to not
artificially inflate the relationship between observer
perspectives and state dissociation.
As illustrated in Table 5, participants who took
an observer perspective at the time of their index
offences had significantly higher levels of state
dissociation (PDEQ) than those who took a field
perspective (t’[12.04] = 8.99, p < .001).
Table 5
Field-Observer Perspectives: State and Trait Dissociation
Field-Observer Perspectives
Observer (n = 5)
Field (n = 45)
X
SD
X
SD
MID
16.58
13.47
9.00
11.44
DES
17.21
11.74
10.22
10.09
PDEQ
14.80*
1.79
5.20
4.75
* p < .001
As shown in Table 5, participants with observer
perspectives at the time of their index offences did
not have significantly higher levels of trait
dissociation as indexed by their DES scores (t[48]
= 1.50, p > .10) and their MID scores (t[48] = 1.38,
p > .10).
The Construct Validity of the MID
Depersonalization and Derealization
PDEQ Item 6 (i.e., “Were there moments when
your sense of your own body seemed distorted or
changed-that is, did you feel yourself to be
unusually large or small, or did your feel
disconnected from your body?”) assessed for state
depersonalization at the time of the participants’
index offences. PDEQ Item 4 (i.e., “Did what was
happening seem unreal to you, as though you were
in a dream or watching a movie or a play?”)
assessed for state derealization. As indicated above,
the MID has a depersonalization scale (12 items)
and a derealization scale (12 items). Within
measures (i.e., PDEQ and MID) depersonalization
and derealization were significantly correlated (i.e.,
2-tailed Pearson correlations) with each other
(PDEQ: r = .48, p < .01; MID: r = .90, p < .01).
Further, MID trait depersonalization was
significantly correlated with PDEQ state
depersonalization (r = .53, p < .01). However, MID
trait derealization was not significantly correlated
with PDEQ state derealization (r = .20, p >.05).
Amnesia
As indicated earlier, question 8 on the PDEQ was
used as an index of amnesia for the participants’
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index offences. As stated above, the MID has a
memory problems scale (12 items) and a
disremembered behavior/actions scale (12 items).
Scores on these two MID scales were significantly
correlated with each other (r = .50, p < .01). PDEQ
Item 8 and the MID disremembered
behavior/actions scale were not significantly
correlated (r = .20, p > .05). Similarly, the
correlation between PDEQ Item 8 and the MID
memory problems scale was not significant (r = -
.04, p > .05).
Post Hoc Analyses
As the sample reported a variety of index offences
and a considerable percentage of the participants
claimed to have been under the influence of
alcohol/drugs at the time of their offences (68%),
post hoc analyses examined levels of state
dissociation by type of index offence and by
reported alcohol/drug use at the time of their
offences. Analyses also investigated the percentage
of amnestic participants who were under the
influence of an intoxicant at the time of their
offences.
State Dissociation by Index Offence
As shown in Table 6, state dissociation (PDEQ)
levels did not differ by the nature of the
participants’ index offences (F[3, 46] = .90, p >
.50).
Table 6
State Dissociation (PDEQ) by Index Offence
State Dissociation
X
SD
Range
Property
(n= 6)
6.17
5.81
0-16
Violent
(n= 26)
7.65
6.49
0-18
Sexual
(n = 15)
4.53
4.61
0-15
Other
(n = 3)
7.00
6.56
0-14
Drug/Alcohol Use and State Dissociation
As indicated above, 68% (n = 34) of the
participants reported they were under the influence
of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the
commission of their index offences. As illustrated
in Table 7, participants who were under the
influence had significantly higher PDEQ scores
than those who were not under the influence (n =
16; F[1, 48] = 8.60, p < .01). It was also revealed
that 15 out of the 17 participants (88%) who
reported amnesia for their index offences were
under the influence of an intoxicant during their
offences.
Table 7
Drug/Alcohol use and State Dissociation
State Dissociation
N
X PDEQ
SD
Under the
Influence
34
8.06*
6.20
Not Under the
Influence
16
3.19
3.37
* p < .01
Dissociation and Amnesia
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77
DISCUSSION
The present study was conducted to explore
dissociative and related phenomenon in a sample of
offenders. We had four primary objectives. First,
we examined the reported rates of dissociation in
offenders. Second, we assessed the association
between state and trait dissociation. Third, reported
rates of amnesia were examined and, fourth, the
association between amnesia and dissociation was
assessed. In addition we had two secondary
objectives. These were to examine the variables
associated with the field-observer perspective and
to assess the construct validity of the MID.
With respect to our first objective, participants in
the present study reported lower levels of DES trait
dissociation (10.92) than have been found in other
studies with sexual offenders (i.e., 24.9; Ellason &
Ross, 1999) and with mixed (i.e., violent and non
violent) samples of offenders (i.e., 19.1; McLeod et
al., 2004). The participants’ reported rate of trait
dissociation is slightly higher than what has been
typically found in the general adult population (3.7
- 7.8) and is consistent with findings from samples
with anxiety (10.4) and affective disorders (6.0 -
12.7; Bernstein-Carlson & Putnam, 1993; van
IJzendoorn & Schuengel, 1996). Unfortunately, no
published research has used the MID with offender
samples. In terms of state dissociation and
offending, McLeod et al. reported substantially
higher PDEQ scores in their sample of violent
(15.2) and non-violent offenders (16.4) than what
was demonstrated in the present investigation
(6.50). These differences partially reflect
methodological issues as McLeod et al. used the
revised version of the PDEQ and we used the
original version and deleted an item. Note,
however, that the original version of the PDEQ has
been used in research with victims of crime and
trauma and the present mean rate of state
dissociation is considerably lower than what has
been reported in these studies. For example, in
Cooper, Kennedy, and Yuille’s (1999) research
with prostitutes, the participants reported mean
PDEQ scores of 12.3 and 11.3 in relation to sexual
and non-sexual traumatic experiences, respectively.
As well, the prostitutes reported a mean PDEQ
score of 6.4 in relation to positively valenced
experiences. The present participants’ reports of
state dissociation are in line with this latter figure
and suggest the average participant in the present
study did not report an elevated level of state
dissociation during his index offence.
In terms of our next primary objective, we
showed the occurrence of dissociative symptoms
during participants’ criminal actions was associated
with their reported levels of trait dissociation. That
is, PDEQ scores (state dissociation) were
significantly correlated with both DES scores and
MID scores (trait dissociation). These findings are
congruent with the reported associations between
state and trait dissociation among victims of trauma
(Hunter & Andrews, 2000; Marmar et al., 1994)
and with offenders of crime (McLeod et al., 2004;
Simoneti et al., 2000). Issues of retrospective
reporting of dissociative symptoms aside (see
Candel & Merckelbach, 2004), theoretically, these
findings suggest a high dissociative disposition may
facilitate the development of state dissociative
symptoms during a specific event. Of course, the
findings could also suggest state dissociation leads
to trait dissociation or there is a third variable
related to both. These findings must be viewed with
caution, however, because offence specific (state)
dissociation occurred more frequently in
participants who were under the influence of drugs
and/or alcohol at the time of their offences.
Similarly, a high percentage of participants who
reported amnesia also claimed to have been under
the influence of an intoxicant at the time of their
offences. Although there was no valid way to assess
whether the participants were actually intoxicated,
their reported levels of both state dissociation and
amnesia may have been chemically induced.
Certainly, we cannot claim to have measured only
‘pure’ state dissociation and non-organic amnesia.
However, alcohol and drugs are quite commonly
ingested before the commission of crimes
(Lightfoot, 1995; Pyszora et al., 2003). Indeed,
Franklin, Allison, and Sutton (1992) reported that
54% of a sample of 13,666 American inmates (aged
14-87) reported being under the influence of a
substance during the commission of violent crimes.
Similarly, Kouri, Pope, Powell, Oliva, and
Campbell (1997) illustrated that 58% of their
sample of 133 offenders reported being intoxicated
during their index offences and an additional 6%
indicated that they were experiencing withdrawal
symptoms. The present rate of participants who
reported being ‘under the influence’ (68%) is
slightly higher in the present study but remains
comparable to these estimates. Future studies
should assess for state dissociation and amnesia in
equal samples of intoxicated and non-intoxicated
participants in order to separate pure state
dissociation from chemically induced dissociation
and dissociative amnesia from organic amnesia.
Our third primary objective was to examine the
reported rates of amnesia for offenders’ index
offense(s). Consistent with the literature on victims
(Mechanic et al., 1998) and perpetrators of crime
(Gudjonsson, Hannesdottir, & Petursson, 1999;
Cooper, B.S., Cuttler, C., Dell, P., and Yu ille, J.C.
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78
Parwatikar Holcomb, & Menninger, 1985), we
showed that a considerable minority of participants
claimed to have experienced amnesia for at least
parts of their reported crimes. The reported rate of
amnesia found in the current study (34%) is in line
with the rates reported in previous research with
offenders (25-45%; Cima et al., 2002; Kopelman,
1987; Pyszora et al., 2003) and victims of crime
(37-44%; Darves-Bornoz, 1997; Elliott & Briere,
1995; Mechanic et al., 1998). It is also comparable
to reported rates of amnesia for ordinary but
nevertheless significant life experiences (e.g., high
school graduation, summer camp) in the general
population (28-60%; Read, 1997; Read & Lindsay,
2000). Thus, there are converging lines of evidence
from a variety of different samples that suggest
amnesia for significant life experiences (e.g.,
criminal acts) is not uncommon and is typically
illustrated by a base rate of between 25-60%,
depending on the sample studied.
In terms of our fourth main objective, in line
with studies of victims of crime (Hunters &
Andrews, 2000; Mechanic et al., 1998) and
offenders (Cooper et al., 2003), we showed that
participants who reported amnesia had higher levels
of both state and trait dissociation than those that
did not report amnesia. These findings have both
theoretical and practical importance. Theoretically,
these findings add to a bourgeoning body of
literature that suggests dissociative processes
negatively affect the processing and recall of
criminal/traumatic events (Foa & Hearst-Ikeda,
1996; van der Kolk & v an der Hart, 1989).
Practically, these findings suggest that, when
memory distortions are an issue in the forensic
context, the witness in question (i.e., perpetrator,
victim, bystander) should be assessed for symptoms
of both state and trait dissociation. It is important to
note that, as others have suggested, there is no
direct association between dissociation and amnesia
(McLeod et al., 2004). That is, some individuals
dissociate during events but do not report amnesia.
Our results simply suggest that, at times,
dissociation can be a factor related to amnesia.
Clearly, research is needed to investigate the
variables in which dissociation leads to amnesia
and in which it leads to detailed recollections.
With regards to our secondary objectives, our
findings related to the field-observer perspective
distinction support previous research. As with
Cooper et al.’s (2002) research with prostitutes, in
the present investigation, participants who
reportedly took observer persp ectives during the
commission of their index offences had
significantly higher levels of state dissociation than
participants who took field perspectives. Of course,
forensic clinicians should not rely solely on the
results of self-report inventories in the
determination of the validity of claims of state
dissociation, amnesia, and observer perspectives.
However, the present findings should encourage
researchers to use converging, multi-modal
approaches (e.g., clinical interviews, self-report
testing, examination of background and collateral
information) to rule out the possibility of
malingering/deception (Cima et al., 2002; Cooper
& Yuille, in press-a).
Finally, our findings add to the construct
validity of the MID. Consistent with other research
(e.g., Somer & Dell, 2005), MID scores correlated
strongly with scores on the DES, the gold standard
self-report measure of trait dissociation. MID
scores were also significantly correlated with scores
on the PDEQ, an increasingly used measure of state
dissociation. The significant correlation between
scores on the MID depersonalization subscale and
scores on the relevant item on the PDEQ (which
taps depersonalization) further supports the
construct validity of the MID. Although this was
the first study to use the MID on a correctional
sample, if robust construct validity is found through
future research, the MID may be a useful tool for
both researchers and practitioners in the forensic
context, as it contains subscales that assess different
dissociative phenomena. Further, the MID also
contains validity subscales that may prove to have
utility in the forensic context. The small sample
size in the present investigation and a lack of an
external measure of malingering precluded an
examination of the usefulness of these validity
subscales.
In addition to the possibility of chemically
induced dissociation and amnesia, the lack of an
external measure of malingering, and a small
sample, the present study was limited by its
retrospective nature and non-random selection
process. As state and trait dissociation were
assessed at the same point in time, it is not possible
to establish a causal relationship. In fact, as alluded
to earlier, it is possible that a highly dissociative
disposition might have influenced retrospective
reports of state dissociative symptoms. Alternately,
participants may have developed a dissociative
disposition subsequent to committing their index
offenses. This latter explanation is, however,
somewhat less probable as both the DES and the
MID assess for lifetime dissociative experiences.
Prospective studies with randomly selected
participants and larger samples would increase the
generalizability of these findings and would better
afford an investigation of causal relationships
between state and trait dissociation.
Dissociation and Amnesia
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79
The present study is also limited by its failure to
assess for psychopathy. Considering that criminal
psychopaths constitute approximately 15-25% of
incarcerated North American correctional samples
(Hare, 1991) and have a unique affective deficit
(Abbott, 2001; Blackburn, 1979; Cleckley, 1941;
Hare, 1993; Patrick, 1994), it may be the case that
psychopathic offenders are less prone to dissociate
and/or develop amnesia than are other offenders
(Porter et al., 2001). If so, dissociative symptoms
and claims of amnesia might be more common in
the correctional population when psychopaths are
removed from the data pool. Conversely,
considering the fact that psychopaths regularly
engage in deception (Cooper & Yuille, in press-b;
Peticlerc, Hervé, Hare, & Spidel, 2000; Seto,
Khattar, Lalumié, & Quinsey, 1997), psychopaths
in the present investigation may have malingered
their symptoms of dissociation and amnesia,
thereby leading to an erroneously high level of
dissociation and amnesia in the total sample.
Finally, the measurement of amnesia in the
present study was a limitation. We relied on a
single item on the PDEQ that taps memory
impairments. Although the authors of the PDEQ
refer to the item as an assessment of amnesia, and
most of the present findings related to amnesia are
consistent with other research, it is clearly the case
that future research should rely on more stringent
definitions of amnesia.
The results of this study do not lead to any firm
conclusions regarding legal issues such as criminal
responsibility when an offender commits a crime in
a dissociative state and/or claims amnesia (for a
review of such issues, see McLeod et al., 2004;
McSherry, 2003, 2004). The results simply suggest
claims of amnesia related to the perpetration of
crimes are not uncommon and appear to be partially
linked to the reported occurrence of state
dissociation and an elevated trait dissociative
disposition. Considering the dearth of research on
dissociation in offenders, it is hoped the present
research will spark future empirical and theoretical
endeavors in this area. Future researchers should
employ better measure of amnesia, external
measures of malingering, assess for psychopathy,
and control for substance induced dissociation and
amnesia in their efforts.
Keeping the above limitations in mind, the
present results support the utility of screening for
dissociation in forensic samples. When completing
a risk assessment, for example, it would be
informative for the evaluator to know whether the
offender dissociated during his/her offence(s). Such
symptoms, if valid, may relate to memory
impairments as the present research suggests and to
PTSD symptoms as the victim literature suggests
(Griffin et al., 1997; Mechanic et al., 1998).
Concerning treatment, offenders with high
dissociative dispositions and/or unresolved traumas
may benefit from treatment strategies that focus on
these issues (Ellason & Ross, 2000; Dietrich,
2003). Indeed, considering the level of traumatic
experiences in the offender population (Briggs &
Hawkins, 1996; McElroy et al., 1999; Romano &
De Luca, 1997), and given the link between
dissociation and PTSD (Bernat et al., 1998;
Cardeña et al., 1998; Liebowitz et al., 1998),
offenders with trauma histories, dissociative
symptoms, and/or PTSD, may benefit from
rehabilitation efforts that converge on these areas.
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... Ein solcher Ansatz (vgl. auch [5]) ist unter Berücksichtigung des aktuellen Wissensstands kritisch zu bewerten, und zwar aus 2 Gründen: Der erste ist empirischer Natur und bezieht sich auf die Tatsache, dass die Forschung bis heute keine Verbindung zwischen der erlebten emotionalen Intensität bei der Tatbegehung und der Geltendmachung von Amnesien nachzuweisen vermochte [20, 68] . Basierend auf dem Verdrängungsoder Dissoziationsansatz müssten diejenigen Täter, die ihre Delikte in einem extremen emotionalen Erregungszustand begingen – der gelegentlich als red-out bezeichnet wird –, auch diejenigen sein, die am wahrscheinlichsten eine Amnesie entwickeln . ...
... Basierend auf dem Verdrängungsoder Dissoziationsansatz müssten diejenigen Täter, die ihre Delikte in einem extremen emotionalen Erregungszustand begingen – der gelegentlich als red-out bezeichnet wird –, auch diejenigen sein, die am wahrscheinlichsten eine Amnesie entwickeln . Zahlreiche Studien zeigen jedoch, dass dies nicht der Fall ist und vielmehr vom exakten Gegenteil ausgegangen werden muss: Evans et al. [68] ...
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In the context of criminal forensic evaluations, experts are often confronted with the problem of offenders' claims of crime-related amnesia. Because of the far-reaching legal consequences of the expert opinion, the nature of the suspected memory disorder has to be investigated with special care and due consideration of differential diagnoses. While the diagnosis of organic amnesia is comparatively easy to make, the same is not true for dissociative amnesia. Despite existing theoretical explanations such as stress, peritraumatic dissociation or repression, to date there is no sound, scientifically based and empirically supported explanation for the occurrence of genuine, non-organic crime-related amnesia. In the criminal context of claimed amnesia, secondary gain is usually obvious; thus, possible malingering of memory loss has to be carefully investigated by the forensic expert. To test this hypothesis, the expert has to resort to methods based on a high methodological level. The diagnosis of dissociative amnesia cannot be made by mere exclusion of evidence for organic amnesia; instead, malingering has to be ruled out on an explicit basis. © Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.
... McLeod et al. [66] wiesen auf den Tatbestand hin, dass es durchaus Individuen gibt, die während eines Ereignisses dissoziieren, später jedoch nicht an Erinnerungsproblemen leiden. Dazu führten Cooper et al. [67], basierend auf eigenen Untersuchungen, aus, dass man nicht unweigerlich von einem direkten Zusammenhang zwischen Dissoziation und Amnesie ausgehen könne. Ihre Ergebnisse würden lediglich darauf hinweisen, dass Dissoziation mitunter ein relevanter Faktor im Zusammenhang mit Amnesien darstellen könne. ...
... … When memory distortions are an issue in the forensic context, the witness in question (i. e. perpetrator, victim, bystander) should be assessed for symptoms of both state and trait dissociation" ([67], S. 78). Ein solcher Ansatz (vgl. ...
... for review, see Marshall et al., 2002). Moreover, the PDEQ has shown strong concurrent validity when correlated with measures of trait dissociation in a sample of incarcerated offenders (Cooper, Cuttler, Dell, & Yuille, 2006). ...
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Incarcerated offenders are more likely to experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and associated symptoms than the general population. PTSD may develop from a variety of events, including being a victim of violence, witnessing violence, or from committing a violent offense. This study examined symptoms and predictors of PTSD in 150 male violent offenders. Participants recalled acts of reactive and instrumental violence, poorly recalled violence, and subjectively disturbing events (e.g., victim of violence), and rated each event for symptoms of PTSD using the Impact of Events Scale (IES). Subjectively disturbing events were associated with higher IES scores than the acts of violence. Hierarchical linear modeling showed that more recent events were associated with a greater number of trauma symptoms and peritraumatic dissociation was positively associated with trauma symptoms. As well, trauma symptoms were more likely to develop if the victim was a family member or a friend, as compared to a stranger or acquaintance. These results support the need for trauma-informed assessment and treatment for offenders. Knowing more about the predictors of trauma symptoms is a first step in effectively treating PTSD in this population.
... Die Autoren folgerten aus ihren Ergebnissen, dass forensische Patienten einer Hochrisikogruppe für die Entwicklung dissoziativer Störungen glichen. Andere Untersuchungen kamen unter Verwendung dieses Instruments sowie des Peritraumatic Dissociation Experiences Questionnaire (PDEQ: Marmar, Weiss & Meltzer, 1997 ) zu vergleichbaren Ergebnissen bei Straftätern (Blease & Freyd, 2007; Cima, Merckelbach, Klein, Schellbach-Matties & Kremer, 2001; Cooper, Cuttler, Dell & Yuille, 2006; Ellason & Ross, 1999; McLeod, Byrne & Aitken, 2004 ). Die neueste Studie auf diesem Gebiet belegte ebenfalls , dass die PDEQ-Werte von Tatbeschuldigten mit einer geltend gemachten Amnesie korrelierten, woraus geschlossen wurde, dass gestörte kognitive Prozesse während der Tat dazu beitrugen, dass die Täter eine Amnesie für die Straftat berichteten (Evans, Mezey & Ehlers, 2009).problem, ...
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Zusammenfassung: Wenn Straftäter in der Begutachtung tatbezogene Erinnerungsprobleme geltend machen, wird differenzialdiagnostisch die Möglichkeit einer dissoziativen Amnesie diskutiert. Es wurde die Frage untersucht, ob und in welchem Ausmaß Dissoziationsfragebögen eine Symptomatik anzeigen, wenn Personen eine in Wahrheit nicht vorhandene Erinnerungsstörung fingieren. In einer experimentellen Analogstudie wurden 60 männliche Probanden instruiert, ein inszeniertes Gewaltdelikt zu begehen. 40 davon sollten im Rahmen einer anschließenden testdiagnostischen Untersuchung eine tatbezogene Amnesie vortäuschen. Die experimentellen Simulanten produzierten im Fragebogen zu Dissoziativen Symptomen (FDS) und im Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire deutlich höhere Ergebnisse als ehrlich antwortende Probanden. Wenn eine Warnung ausgesprochen wurde, zum Erhalt der Glaubhaftigkeit nicht zu sehr zu übertreiben, konnten die Probanden im FDS ihr auffälliges Antwortverhalten signifikant reduzieren. Folglich dürfen Beschwerdenschilderungen, die mittels Selbstbeurteilungsfragebögen erhoben werden, ohne gleichzeitig mögliche negative Antwortverzerrungen zu erfassen, nicht als Symptomnachweis gewertet werden. Individuelle Gutachten und empirische Studien im Kontext tatbezogener Amnesien, die der Gefahr der Testverfälschungen nicht Rechnung tragen, müssen als unzureichend beurteilt und ihre Aussagekraft kritisch hinterfragt werden.
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Interviewing is the essence of law enforcement. The goal of an effective interview, be it with a victim, witness, informant, or suspect, is to elicit complete and accurate information. Of course, the gathering of complete and accurate information is not unique to law enforcement. Psychologists and psychiatrists rely on fact-finding interviews to-among other activities-diagnose and treat mental illness, assess malingering, and determine risk of violence. The retail loss prevention and other industries use investigative interviews to gather data to identify, neutralize, assess, and prevent thefts and frauds (see Walsh & Bull, this volume). Leaders of countries and politicians rely on accurate information to make geopolitical and economic decisions and to navigate diplomatic relationships. The gathering of intelligence has always been critical to the military in times of both peace and war. In other words, many important decisions are made on a daily basis that depends on information gathered by people through interviews. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York. All rights are reserved.
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The aim of this chapter is to describe a major challenge facing contemporary forensic psychology: the reliance on laboratory-based research at the expense of field research. I argue that the reliance on laboratory research has had a profound negative effect on the discipline, retarding our understanding of many psychological phenomena in the forensic field. My focus is on the area of eyewitness memory, although I believe that the arguments presented here are valid for a number of forensic areas of enquiry. This chapter begins with a review of some of the historical roots for the reliance on the laboratory. This is followed by an examination of the consequences of the reliance on the laboratory as the appropriate venue for the study of eyewitness memory. I conclude with some thoughts on how we can meet this challenge; how we can overcome our belief in the ultimate value of the laboratory and develop more appropriate methodologies for the study of eyewitness memory, as well as other aspects of forensic psychology. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York. All rights are reserved.
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Eyewitness memory has evolved into an umbrella term to account for the memory of criminal actions witnessed by victims, bystanders, and committed by perpetrators. Encompassed by the narrative memory of a crime as well as recognition memory for the perpetrator, eyewitness memory plays an important role in the criminal justice process-from the initial investigative interview by law enforcement to the assessment of credibility by the triers of fact. In an effort to assist criminal justice system professionals, researchers-mostly psychologists-have empirically investigated the variables associated with eyewitness memory for over 100 years (e.g., Stern, 1904). In fact, thousands of studies have been conducted in the area, making the study of eyewitness memory one of the largest subfields in the area of forensic psychology. The impressive quantity of literature is, however, daunting in nature when one attempts to make sense of the discrepant empirical findings. Indeed, consistent with clinical-forensic experience, the results from eyewitness research indicate that different witnesses to the same criminal event can produce widely variable memory patterns. Without a unifying evidence-informed model to explain the different memory patterns observed, criminal justice professionals are faced with a difficult task when attempting to makes sense out of the variable nature of eyewitness memory. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York. All rights are reserved.
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The forensic psychiatric examiner often encounters defendants who deny memory for their offense. Past research proposes a variety of factors to account for offense amnesia. To date there have been few systematic studies of offense amnesia in relation to psychiatric diagnosis, either alone or in combination with other known factors such as substance use and malingering. We studied 53 pretrial felony defendants who had been referred for psychiatric examination; 40% claimed amnesia for their offense. Examinees with psychotic disorders in general, and schizophrenia in particular, were relatively less likely to claim amnesia than were examinees with other diagnoses. Substance use at the time of the offense and associated substance use disorder diagnoses were positively associated with offense amnesia. Malingering diagnosed by general clinical criteria was a poor predictor of amnesia claims. These data suggests that two prominent reasons for referral for forensic psychiatric evaluation include the presence of psychotic symptoms and claims of amnesia for the offense.
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This investigation focuses on dissociation in a sample of prostitutes. As part of a larger exploratory study investigating the impact of trauma on memory, 33 prostitutes were interviewed regarding the frequency of their past sexual assault experiences (both before and during their involvement in prostitution) and current dissociative experiences. Extreme variability was evident regarding the participants' dissociative experiences and their reported number of sexual assaults. Implications concerning the relation between a history of earlier trauma and adult dis-sociation are discussed.
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Ten hypotheses were derived from Beere's (in press) perception based theory of dissociation. Seven hypotheses received significant support. Although two hypotheses obtained inconsistent support, the results are explainable by the theory. The tenth hypothesis received no support. Two post hoc hypotheses pertinent to the tenth hypothesis and based on the theory received strong support, however, indicating that the lost hypothesis was a misapplication of the theory. The results indicate, as predicted by the theory, that during trauma perception of the background (defined as "I," mind, body, world, and time) is lost or altered and becomes the dissociative reaction. In addition, the results indicate that specific dissociative reactions are unique to specific traumatic conditions. In contrast to current opinion, seme dissociative reactions during trauma do not seem defensive but result from perceptual focus on the traumatic threat.
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Breaking from the traditional mode of dissociation research, this study examines the experience of dissociation during positive situations. Thirty-three of ninety (36.7%)randomly selected undergraduate students reported positive dissociative experiences. In order of ranked frequency the experiences included sports, sexual encounters, prayer. contact with nature, anticipating good news, hearing good news, acting, hobbies, musical performances, and listening to music. Interestingly, low as well as high dissociators reported these types of experiences suggesting that one need not be highly dissociative in order to dissociate during a positive situation. A qualitative analysis of descriptions of positive dissociative experiences coincides precisely with Beere's perceptual theory of dissociation: dissoiation occurs when perception narrows during an intense situation of personal significance and, thus, blocks out the background.