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Multiple Identities & False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective Paperback – September 1, 2001
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Spanos wrote in the first chapter, "In this book, I argue that viewing MPD as a naturally occurring mental disorder is fundamentally flawed. Instead, I describe a sociocognitive alternative to the disease model that suggests that MPD is a sociohistorical product... In the past two centuries, a number of psychiatric syndromes have developed, spread, and then all but disappeared as a function of changing conceptions held by both doctors and patients concerning the ways in which distress may be legitimately expressed." (Pg. 3)
He points out, "The available evidence fails to support the common beliefs that hypnotic procedures produce a unique state of consciousness... On the contrary, the available data indicate that hypnotic and nonhypnotic subjects process information in the same way... Central to the mythology of hypnosis are the ideas that highly hypnotizable subjects can produce dramatic changes in perception and memory that transcend normal abilities, and that these subjects actually lose voluntary control over their own behavior to dissociated subsytems that are created by suggestions." (Pg. 28) He adds, "even highly hypnotizable hypnotic subjects do not ... become blind or deaf when given negative hallucination suggestions, and they do not lose control over their behavior. On the other hand, hypnotized subjects are quite capable of lying, and they sometimes exaggerate and purposely misdescribe their experiences to present themselves as meeting suggested demands." (Pg. 38)
He notes, "it is important to keep in mind that patients undergoing incest-resolution therapy... are, at first, often unsure whether the abuse experiences they uncover are memories or fantasies. It is for this reason that incest-resolution therapists warn patients to expect such uncertainty and attempt to persuade them that such uncertainty does not mean that their memories are false." (Pg. 98)
He observes, "by the end of the first two decades of the 20th century, the number of MPD cases had dropped substantially, and from the 1920s to 1970, only a handful were reported worldwide. Since 1970, the number of cases reported has increased astronomically, and thousands have now been reported... Interestingly, historical changes have occurred not only in the prevalence of MPD but also in the number of personalities supposedly displayed by MPD recipients." (Pg. 232) He suggests, "Information about MPD is widespread in our culture, and the major components of the role are now well-known to the general public... the idea of being a multiple, like the idea of suffering from peripheral possession or demonic possession, may provide some people with a viable and face-saving way to account for personal problems as well as a dramatic means for gaining concern and attention from significant others." (Pg. 241)
He records, "Most studies find that MPD patients report extremely high rates of childhood sexual or physical abuse... These findings are the major source of empirical support for the hypothesis that MPD results from early trauma... however... multiplicity can occur in the absence of early child abuse." (Pg. 265)
This is an excellent, well-documented and academic analysis and critique of MPD, that will be of great interest for anyone studying this area of abnormal psychology.
(Dissociative Identity Disorder) as it is now called remains a very controversial diagnosis. If you are interested in learning more about this bizarre condition and you are skeptical by nature you will enjoy this book. Nick was one of the most analytical and clear thinkers whom I have ever met and worked with. In this book, he systematically develops the argument that a variety of social, cognitive, and other psychological and situational factors account for how and why some people present this way and come to think of themselves as having multiple identities--rather than some kind of elusive dissociating of the mind.
If you are tired of reading hocum and "pop" psychology and are looking for a truly scientific review of this phenomenon by one of the greatest and most prolific social psychologists who ever lived I highly recommend this book to you.
Check out Nick's other work on hypnosis, witchcraft, and demonic possession. By the time of his death, Nick had developed an enormous bibliography of scientific articles, chapters, and books. Many of his research designs and methodologies were truly brilliant.