Dissociative identity disorder and memory dysfunction: the current state of experimental research and its future directions

Clin Psychol Rev. 2001 Jul;21(5):771-95. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(00)00068-4.


Memory dysfunction is a central feature of dissociative identity disorder (DID). Following the memorial anomalies outlined by Putnam [Putnam, F. W. (1994). Dissociation and disturbances of self. In: D. Cicchetti & S. L. Toth (Eds.), Disorders and dysfunctions of the self, vol. 5 (pp. 251-265). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press; Putnam, F. W. (1995). Development of dissociative disorders. In: D. Chicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology, vol. 2 (pp. 581-608). New York: Wiley], the experimental research using DID case studies and samples is reviewed. As a whole, research suggests that amnesic barriers between alter personalities are typically impervious to explicit stimuli, as well as conceptually driven implicit stimuli. Autobiographical memory deficits are also experimentally evident in DID. Although no experimental studies have addressed the issue of source amnesia or pseudomemories, there is some evidence that pseudomemories are an infrequent but real phenomenon in DID patients. Finally, potential deficits in working memory are outlined, including those relating to cognitive inhibition. Research directions are discussed throughout to further elucidate the nature of memory dysfunction in DID.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / complications
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / psychology*
  • Perception
  • Self Concept