ArticlePDF Available

Is the Dissociative Adult Suggestible? A Test of the Trauma and Fantasy Models of Dissociation

Authors:

Abstract

Abstract Psychologists have long assumed a connection between traumatic experience and psychological dissociation. This hypothesis is referred to as the Trauma Model of dissociation. In the last decade, a series of papers have been published that question this traditional causal link, proposing an alternative Fantasy Model of dissociation. In this research, the relationship among dissociation, suggestibility, and fantasy proneness were examined. Suggestibility was measured through the Gudjonsson Scale of Interrogative Suggestibility (GSS), as well as an autobiographically based version of this measure based on the events of September 11, 2001. Consistent with prior research and with the Trauma Model, dissociation correlated positively with trauma severity (r = .32, p < .01) and fantasy proneness (r = .60, p < .01). Inconsistent with the Fantasy Model, dissociation did not correlate with the neutral form of the Gudjonsson, and correlated negatively (r = -.24, p < .05) with the trauma-focused form of this suggestibility measure. Although some participants did become quite emotional during the procedure, the risk/benefit ratio was perceived by almost all participants to be positive, with more reactive individuals evaluating the procedure more positively. The results consistently support the Trauma Model of dissociation and fail to support the Fantasy Model of dissociation.
... Arousal was commonly included as a measure of emotion (k = 8). Measures of arousal included the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) normed image ratings 4 (Porter et al., 2014;Van Damme & Smets, 2014), pilot ratings of arousal (Porter et al., 2008;Roos & Gow, 2007 ), subjective ratings of arousal (English & Nielson, 2010;Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014;Porter et al., 2014), the arousal subscale of the Brief Mood Inspection Scale (Van Damme & Seynaeve, 2013;Van Damme & Smets, 2014), and UWIST Mood Scale Adjective Checklist (Tiwari, 2011). ...
... Amongst these studies, the most common finding was no significant effect of arousal on suggestion-induced false memory (k = 5). Specifically, there was no evidence that arousal was associated with suggestibility (Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014;Porter et al., 2014;Roos & Gow, 2007), confidence in false memories (Van Damme & Seynaeve, 2013), or frequency of recall of false positive or negative events (Porter et al., 2008). ...
Article
Inaccurate memory reports can have serious consequences within forensic and clinical settings, where emotion and misinformation are two common sources of memory distortion. Many studies have investigated how these factors are related; does emotion protect memory or leave it more vulnerable to the distorting effects of misinformation? The findings remain diffused. Thus, the present review aimed to clarify the relationship between emotion and susceptibility to misinformation. 39 eligible studies were reviewed. Results varied according to the type and dimension of emotion measured. Level of arousal may be unrelated to susceptibility to misinformation when retrieval occurs without delay; studies including delayed retrieval were limited. Stimuli valence may be associated with increased susceptibility to peripheral misinformation but unrelated to other misinformation. The following results were reported by limited studies: short-term distress and moderate levels of stress may decrease susceptibility, while anger and greater cortisol response to stress may increase susceptibility to misinformation. Source memory may also be unaffected by emotion. The results have important potential implications for forensic and clinical practice, for example by highlighting the value of enquiring witnesses’ source memory. Methodological recommendations for future studies are made.
... Wat psychische symptomen betreft, hebben allerlei onderzoekers (bijv. Kluemper & Dalenberg 2014) het speciale verband benadrukt tussen fantasiegeneigdheid en dissociatieve symptomen. Beide, aldus deze onderzoekers, vloeien voort uit traumatische ervaringen. ...
... , 2016. Het zou zo'n voorgeschiedenis in combinatie met absorptie zijn die de link met dissociatieve symptomen verklaart (Kluemper & Dalenberg 2014 ...
... When I inquired about this, she again denied such a history. Studies of various suggestibility paradigms in dissociative individuals show quite low suggestibility (Dalenberg, Brand, et al., 2012;Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014). Indeed, review of the clinical literature and clinical experience shows that, in general, DID individuals are far more stuck than suggestible. ...
Article
Full-text available
Courts struggle with questions of how to assess competency to stand trial (CTS) and not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) in dissociative identity disorder (DID). Concerns about CTS include dissociative amnesia and unpredictable switching behaviors that could cause inconsistent information transfer across self states, with the defendant unable to access important legal information about his/her defense and to collaborate with his/her attorney; DID defendants could not conform their conduct to the law or know right from wrong due to dissociative amnesia, the seemingly independent actions of self states, and the disruption of reality testing by switching. The author presents the case of a woman charged with both a witnessed and an unwitnessed burglary and arson, the latter at the home of her former therapist. The author was the fourth forensic evaluator in the case. Disagreements included whether the defendant met diagnostic criteria for DID or was malingering, and whether she was CTS and/or NGRI. In clinical work with DID, “the whole human being” is held responsible for all behavior, despite reported amnesia or lack of subjective agency. The Discrete Behavioral States (DBS) model of DID avoids reification of the DID self states and their conflation as separate “people.” This model supports evaluating the defendant at the level of specific self states, the self-state system, and that of the whole human being. The author concluded that the defendant met diagnostic criteria for DID and also was malingering its severity. She was competent to stand trial and legally sane.
... The changes in the DES normalized the distribution while preserving the correlation to the original scale, with r values from .80 to .90 (Coe, Dalenberg, Aransky, & Reto, 1995;Arzoumanian et al., 2017). The DES-R has been successfully used to predict relevant clinical constructs in a number of published papers (Coe et al., 1995;Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), the most commonly used scale for assessing dissociation across settings, lacks a validity scale. In this study, six methods of enhancing validity were utilized: vocabulary and duration screening, manipulation checks, inconsistency, atypicality, and structure (unlikely pattern of responses). Six reverse-worded DES questions were developed to assess inconsistency, six questions regarding extremely rare or unknown symptoms assessed atypicality, and the difference between taxon and absorption items assessed structure. Honest, feigning, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) groups completed the assessment (N = 345) via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) or SurveyMonkey. All groups received a brief definition of dissociation. The honest/PTSD groups were asked to complete the survey honestly. The feigning group members were asked to pretend to be someone with dissociative symptoms. Failure of the vocabulary, duration, or manipulation check validations led to 72 exclusions. The three groups differed significantly on the inconsistent items, the atypical items, and structure items, F(2, 271) > 7.52, p < .001, with the feigning group consistently performing worse than the two honest groups. The DES with validity scale may be most useful for community survey studies in which there is a high risk of malingering or feigning.
... A minority of participants in trauma studies do show strong affect during trauma research participation (Brabin & Berah, 1995;Carlson et al., 2003), such as when Brabin and Berah's participants discussed a stillbirth of a child. However, strong affect was not related to negative feelings about the study (Runeson & Beskow, 1991;Ruzek & Zatzick, 2000), and in fact often correlates positively with ratings of study value and worth (Brabin & Berah, 1995;Carlson et al., 2003;Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014). There does not appear to be a strong database for a blanket statement to potential research participants that talking about their trauma is a substantial risk, whereas there is evidence that avoiding discussion of trauma can be psychologically damaging (Batten, Follette, & Aban, 2001;Mayou, Ehlers, & Bryant, 2002;Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000). ...
Article
One hundred eighty trauma-focused dissertations published in the United States were examined to determine the variation in risk language used in the informed consents. Level of risk proposed in the informed consents was poorly related to ratings of risk by graduate coders and virtually unrelated to vulnerability factors such as the age of participants and clinical or nonclinical status. Risk language in the informed consents was markedly elevated over that rated by the coders, with more than one third of the dissertations presenting the risk of participation as severe (i.e., associated with substantial risk of reactivity and lasting discomfort). These statements are not in keeping with the literature and raise ethical concerns in relation to (a) nocebo effects, (b) distortion of correlational findings, and (c) discouragement of participants from disclosing trauma in other settings.
... This false belief may lead evaluators to follow Merckelbach and Patihis (2018) by (a) automatically discounting the accounts of dissociative individuals and (b) assuming all dissociative individuals are highly prone to fantasy. Merckelbach and Patihis failed to mention that dissociatives as a group do not appear to be more likely to have false memories Kluemper & Dalenberg, 2014;Vissia, et al., 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
Dissociation is commonly a response to trauma that can be associated with significant impairment. In order to deal with dissociation in court from a comprehensive, scientifically informed, and valid perspective, Brand, Schielke, and Brams (Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 283-297, 2017a, b) provided a balanced view of dissociation, its characteristics, evidence base, and best assessment practices. Without an approach such as this, forensic experts risk having insufficient knowledge in its causation, phenomenology, and assessment and accordingly misunderstand trauma-related dissociation (TRD). Brand et al. (Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 283-297, 2017a, b) addressed this issue by providing an overview of TRD relevant to forensic contexts, acknowledging some of the erroneous and misinformed approaches to the topic. Merckelbach and Patihis (2018) offered a critique of Brand et al. (Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 283-297, 2017a, b) that illustrated this lack of knowledge and misunderstanding about TRD. Many of the statements made by these authors are conceptually inaccurate or scientifically misinformed. As we show, they were incorrect when they stated that research is lacking about the inter-rater reliability of dissociative disorder (DD) diagnoses. They were unaware of the error rates of tests and interviews among dissociative samples, which we present here. Merckelbach and Patihis challenged Brand et al., arguing their methods and literature review “lacked a connectivity to existing science” (p. 3), despite extensive citations of studies with DD patients. They argued that we failed to adequately consider malingering despite our discussions of empirically supported methods for assessing it. We show that Merckelbach and Patihis overlooked research that does not support their views. As we review their comments, we illustrate their pattern of misreading and misunderstanding our papers, as well as lapses in their reasoning. The current paper reinforces that in the forensic context, experts can acquire adequate understanding of TRD and its evidence base, and put forward arguments against any harsh critique of the area that is uninformed about, misunderstands, or includes omissions and errors in critical conceptualization, state-of-the-art assessment practices, and research methodology and results.
Article
The current study assessed the reliability and validity of three measures of dissociation. Three hundred students completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale Revised (DESR), the Dissociative Experiences Scale-II (DES-II), and the Dissociative Experiences Scale Comparison (DESC); an additional 252 community adults evaluated clarity of instructions. Findings revealed that the three dissociation measures showed acceptable test–retest reliability and Cronbach’s alphas. The DESR and DES-II strongly intercorrelated, but the DESC correlated only moderately with the two remaining dissociation measures, sharing less than 10% of the variance with the original scale. Additionally, the DESR and DES-II showed stronger convergent validity (correlation with measures of alexithymia and post-traumatic stress disorder) than did the DESC. The DESC was the only measure unrelated to trauma history. Participants reported substantially greater difficulty in understanding and utilizing the metric offered by the DESC. In conclusion, evidence supports the DES-II and DESR as alternate measures, but the DESC requires more investigation.
Article
Severe dissociation is trauma-related, but a range of dissociative experiences are also prevalent in clinical populations that are not necessarily trauma-based (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders). These remain poorly understood as the dominant etiological model for dissociation relies on trauma. Importantly, dissociation in such samples predicts poor prognosis and high drop-out rates. We set out to better understand the etiology of dissociative experiences in a mixed clinical (anxiety and depression) and community sample by exploring between- and within-subjects effects of two domains: psychological distress or negative affectivity (operationalized as anxiety and depression symptoms), and poor sleep quality, including disturbed dreaming. The idea that negative affectivity triggers dissociation (Distress Model) is inspired by the trauma model. The idea that poor sleep and unusual dreaming underlie dissociation (Sleep Model) has been suggested as a competing theory. We examined both models by exploring which domains oscillate alongside dissociative experiences. N = 98 adults, half of them diagnosed with depression and anxiety and half community controls, underwent a structured clinical interview and completed questionnaires monthly for six months. Support was found for both models in that each domain had a unique explanatory contribution. Distress evinced consistent effects that could not be explained by sleep or dreaming, both between individuals and across time. Oscillations in dissociation across months, when taking psychological distress into account, were better explained by unusual dreaming than traditional sleep quality measures. These findings cannot be generalized to highly-traumatized samples. A complex, integrated etiological model for dissociative experiences is warranted.
Article
If childhood trauma leads to dissociation, then this coping mechanism is powered by the imagination, creativity, consciousness, and similar areas of cognitive function. The goal of this article is to promote the treatment of trauma with particular emphasis on humanistic psychotherapy and behavioral therapy, such as “Play Therapy” for pediatric populations. It will thoroughly describe the multiple personality states within dissociative identity disorder, including the individualized sense of “self.” The diagnostic criteria of this mental disorder will be covered, along with assessment techniques that evoke a deeper understanding of dissociative disorders. It will also discuss comorbidities that present with dissociative disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder. This scholarly article suggests that dissociative disorders may result from experiencing tragic events and therefore need treatment for trauma to relieve negative symptoms of dissociation. The multidimensional aspects of dissociation are emphasized in their relation to the treatment of trauma.
Chapter
Der Bereich des Gedächtnisses wird von der Einspeicherung bis zum Abruf beleuchtet. Die Anwendung von Neuroimplantaten – psychischen Vorstellungen, die die Erinnerung verändern sollen – wird hinsichtlich Anwendungsmöglichkeiten, insbesondere zur Erhöhung des Selbstwertgefühls, erläutert. Eine gebührende Aufmerksamkeit erhält die Stillung der Bedürfnisse nach traumatischem Erleben. Erläuterungen zum Einsatz externer internetbezogener Hilfen werden gegeben. Gefahren und ethische Gesichtspunkte hinsichtlich der Benutzung psychischer Implantate werden diskutiert. Die Besonderheit der Regression bei der Traumaverarbeitung wird beschrieben, das Empfinden und Denken in Szenarien geschildert, und die Möglichkeiten der Anwendung von Implantaten in allen Bereichen, die Grundbedürfnisse darstellen, werden beleuchtet. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen von Persönlichkeitsausbildung und -erweiterung werden diskutiert.
Article
Full-text available
Undergraduate and first-year graduate students (n = 410) were assessed for adult attachment, history of exposure to violence in childhood, and frequency of four types of dissociative experiences. Violence history was related to attachment style, as were four factors extracted from two dissociation measures. Each attachment style was predictedby distinct patterns of violence history and dissociation. Importantly, the four types of dissociation, despite their conceptual relationship, were empirically independent clinical phenomena, at times entering the regression equations in significant and opposite directions. The findings are discussed in the context of empirical and clinical issues in adult attachment, child maltreatment, and dissociation.
Article
Full-text available
Two groups of college students were selected on the basis of their scores on the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). The high-DES group (score > 20, M = 29.6; n = 54) and low-DES group (score Document Type: Research Article DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00185 Affiliations: University of Oregon Publication date: September 1, 1999 $(document).ready(function() { var shortdescription = $(".originaldescription").text().replace(/\\&/g, '&').replace(/\\, '<').replace(/\\>/g, '>').replace(/\\t/g, ' ').replace(/\\n/g, ''); if (shortdescription.length > 350){ shortdescription = "" + shortdescription.substring(0,250) + "... more"; } $(".descriptionitem").prepend(shortdescription); $(".shortdescription a").click(function() { $(".shortdescription").hide(); $(".originaldescription").slideDown(); return false; }); }); Related content In this: publication By this: publisher In this Subject: Psychology By this author: DePrince, Anne P. ; Freyd, Jennifer J. GA_googleFillSlot("Horizontal_banner_bottom");
Article
Chronic illnesses often involve repeated hospitalization and invasive treatment procedures that can have a traumatic impact on child development. To explore possible consequences of treatment procedures, three groups of patients with congenital anomalies were examined longitudinally. At first admission, adolescents (ages 10-20, mean 15) with anorectal anomalies (n = 14), adolescents with Hirschsprung disease (it = 14), and hospitalized controls (n = 14) were assessed for treatment procedures, somatic function, mental health, and dissociative experiences. The assessment included the Adolescent Dissociative Experiences Scale (A-DES). At 10-year follow-up, the patients completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) and the Somatoform Dissociative Questionnaire (SDQ-20). Anal dilatation, an invasive medical treatment procedure performed daily by the parents the first 4 years, was correlated with the frequency and severity of persisting dissociative symptonlatology. The procedure was the only significant predictor of A-DES and SDQ-20 scores, and one of two significant predictors of DES scores. This "experirnent of nature" permitted a specific and unique opportunity to examine the impact of early traumatic exposure oil child development in the absence of parental malevolence, and on later dissociative outcome in adolescence and adulthood. The findings might be valuable theoretically to our understanding of the development of psychopathology, and may lend itself for comparison with data on sexually abused children.
Article
The present study examined whether scores on the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) are related to interrogative suggestibility, as measured by the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (GSS-1). In addition, an attempt was made to identify factors that may mediate this relationship. The DES and GSS were administered to a sample of 56 female undergraduate students along with self-report measures of cognitive failures and fantasy proneness. DES and cognitive failures were found to be related to total GSS scores. In contrast, fantasy proneness was not linked to total GSS scores. Correcting for the influence of cognitive failures attenuated the correlation between DES and GSS. This suggests that cognitive efficiency is one of the mediating factors operating in the connection between dissociation and interrogative suggestibility.
Article
Childhood trauma has profound impact on the emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social, and physical functioning of children. Developmental experiences determine the organizational and functional status of the mature brain. The impact of rruumufic experiences on the development and function of the brain are discussed in context of basic principles of neurodevelopment. There are various adaptive mental and physical responses to trauma, including physiological hyperarousal and dissociation. Because the developing brain organizes and internalizes new information in a use-dependent fashion, the more a child is in a state of hyperarousal or dissociation, the more likely they are to have neuropsychiatric symptoms following trauma. The acute adaptive states, when they persist, can become maladaptive traits. The clinical implications of this new neurodevelopmental conceptualization of childhood trauma are discussed. Le trauma de l'enfance a un impact profond sur le fonctionnement émotionnel, comportemental, cognitif, social et physique des enfants. Les expériences en matière de développement déterminent l'organisa-tion et le fonctionnement du cerveau arrivé à maturité. L'impact d'expériences traumatiques sur le développement et le fonctionnement du cerveau sont discutés dans le contexte de principes de bases de neurodéveloppe-ment. Il existe plusieurs résponses mentales et physiques d'adaptation au trauma, parmi lesquelles l'excitation physique intense et de la dissociation. Parce que le cerveau qui se développe organise et internalise les nouvelles “informations” d'une manière liée B l'utilisation et en dépendant, plus un enfant se trouve dans un état d'excitation ou de dissociation et plus il risque d'y avoir des symptǒmes neuropsychiatriques aprés le trauma. L'“état” adaptatif aigu peut devenir persistent et conduire à des “traits” d'inadaptation. Les implications cliniques de cette nouvelle conceptualisation de neurodéveloppement du trauma de l'enfance sont discutées.
Article
Aim: The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (GSS) assesses suggestibility by asking respondents to recall a short story, using leading questions and pressure to change their responses. Suggestibility, as assessed by the GSS, is elevated in people with intellectual disabilities. Unlike real life incidents, the information presented is of no personal significance to the respondent. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether this factor influences suggestibility in people with intellectual disabilities.Method: We created two alternative suggestibility scales (ASS and ASS2), based on real events in a learning disabilities day service. In Experiment 1, two groups of service users (n = 20) were administered both the GSS and the ASS, presented in a counterbalanced order. The experimental group had witnessed the events described in the ASS, which took place 18 months earlier. The control group attended a different day service; therefore, for this group, the information presented in the GSS and the ASS tasks was equally unfamiliar. In Experiment 2, both groups of participants were administered the ASS2, which described events that took place one month earlier.Results: In the control group, the GSS, ASS, and ASS2 did not differ either in recall of the information presented, or in suggestibility. In the experimental group suggestibility was decreased by a third for the ASS, relative to the GSS, and by two thirds for the ASS2. Therefore, suggestibility is decreased by familiarity and the decrease is greater for more recent events. Recall was higher for the ASS than for the GSS, but there was no difference in recall between the ASS and ASS2. Therefore, decreases in suggestibility for familiar material cannot be explained simply in terms of increased recall.Implications: We believe that this study is the first to report that suggestibility for events that have been witnessed is less than for arbitrary events. A crime that has been witnessed is likely to be better recalled than an impersonal story. The results suggest that the GSS is likely to over-estimate how suggestible a person is likely to be when the event in question is personally significant. This may lead to people with learning disabilities being prevented from testifying in court because it is mistakenly inferred from the GSS that their testimony would be unreliable.
Article
The purpose of this article is to examine the appropriate use of the implanted memory paradigm with children. In this paradigm, participants are asked repeatedly about fictitious events that never transpired. The responses of children in these investigations demonstrate clearly that they can be led to unintentionally create false memories. This article addresses whether memory research should continue to encourage children to create memories for events that never happened. The literature in other areas of psychology suggests that deception may lessen respect for authority, affect a child's self-esteem, and create stress. We propose that the use of the implanted memory paradigm be suspended indefinitely or until appropriate research demonstrates that the paradigm does not affect children negatively. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
There is growing interest in dissociative phenomena among Australian clinicians and researchers. This is in spite of a public mental health system that allocates services on the basis of diagnosis (predominantly depression and psychotic disorders) rather than need, and professional training programs that make only passing reference to the dissociative disorders. This piece provides an introduction to the Australian context, an overview of the status of dissociation and the dissociative disorders in Australia and a selective review of Australian dissociation research. Emphasis will be placed upon investigations into the correlates of normal dissociative phenomena and the nature and sequelae of peritraumatic dissociation. The concludes with an examination of the psychometric properties of the Dissociative Experiences Scale arising from Australian adult samples.