Dissociation in the laboratory: a comparison of strategies

Behav Res Ther. 1999 Jan;37(1):49-61. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(98)00072-2.


Several methods for inducing dissociation in the laboratory were examined in a sample of 78 undergraduate students. Participants scoring high or low on the Dissociative Experiences Scale participated in three dissociation challenge conditions: (a) dot-staring task, (b) administration of pulsed photic and audio stimulation and (c) stimulus deprivation. Participants recorded their dissociative experiences both before and after each of the three challenge conditions. Across conditions, high DES participants reported significantly more dissociative sensations than low DES participants, even after controlling for pre-challenge dissociation. Moreover, regardless of DES status, pulsed photo and audio stimulation produced the greatest level of dissociative symptoms. The findings suggest that the induction of dissociative symptoms in a nonclinical sample is easily accomplished in the laboratory and that those who report more dissociative symptoms in their day-to-day life exhibit more pronounced dissociative symptoms when undergoing dissociative challenge in the laboratory. Implications for the study and treatment of dissociative symptoms are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Depersonalization / psychology*
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology