Girodo, M., Deck, T. & Morrison, M. (2002). Dissociative-type identity disturbances in undercover agents: Socio-cognitive factors behind false-identity appearances and reenactments. Social Behavior and Personality, 30, 631-644.
Many police officers and government agents engage in what is commonly known as undercover investigation. Officers engaged in such work routinely infiltrate a particular group and instantiate themselves into a criminal community in order to gain intelligence and capture those engaged in illegal behaviour. The officer or agent must gain the trust of the community members before they are accepted into the group and allowed access to other community members and information regarding their activities. Obviously, these undercover agents must not only conceal their true identity but also construct a new persona or identity that they will adopt while engaging in their investigations. Simply put, undercover agents must pretend to be someone other than who they are.
In some instances, the invented identity may persist in contexts outside of the actual investigation; that is, in nonwork related contexts. The following examples are drawn from the introduction to the study reviewed here (i.e., Girodo, Deck and Morrison, 2002). The re-experience of an undercover persona is often reported as being outside the control of the agent, as in the case of a British Secret Service agent who reported the reappearance of his alternative personality outside of his conscious awareness. These experiences may be accompanied by confusion and memory distortion, illustrated by the difficulty a secret agent for the Israeli Mossad had remembering his real name and place of origin.
The severity of post-undercover personality disturbances may be exacerbated in the case of long-term undercover work in which officers are required to role play a false persona for prolonged periods of time. In addition to the strain associated with being someone other than oneself for an extended time period, some officers report feelings of depersonalization during which they feel disengaged from their selves and experience …