Is the dissociative adult suggestible? A test of the trauma and fantasy models of dissociation

J Trauma Dissociation. 2014;15(4):457-76. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2014.880772.


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 past decade, a series of papers have been published that question this traditional causal link, proposing an alternative fantasy model of dissociation. In the present research, the relationship among dissociation, suggestibility, and fantasy proneness was 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 GSS 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.

Keywords: cognitive processes; dissociation; false memories; suggestibility.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Demography
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Fantasy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Suggestion*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires