Psychological Concepts and Dissociative Disorders

Psychological Concepts and Dissociative Disorders

Psychological Concepts and Dissociative Disorders

Psychological Concepts and Dissociative Disorders


This book is based on a symposium that was inspired by the late Donald O. Hebb who, in his latter years while an Honorary Professor in the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie University, became very interested in the phenomenon of multiple personality and other dissociative states. Hebb was troubled by the lack of understanding of dissociative behavior and, through his discussions with basic science and clinical colleagues in psychology and psychiatry, he became convinced that the subject would be a figurative gold mine for psychological theory and experimentation.

The purpose of the symposium was to bring together clinical and research scientists with an interest and expertise in dissociative phenomena such as multiple personality disorder, hysteria and hypnosis. This group would exchange ideas and findings, discuss theory, and lay the groundwork for an interdisciplinary research program into dissociative phenomena generally, and more specifically into multiple personality disorder and its principal precipitating factor -- physical and sexual abuse in children.


D. O. Hebb is best known for his very influential book, The Organization of Behavior, in which is presented his neuropsychological "cell-assembly" theory (1949). Equally important, but less well appreciated, was Hebb's determination to see psychology attempt to illuminate cognitive processes which, during the first half of the 20th century, had been subjugated by the behaviorist zeitgeist (Klein, 1979).

As noted in the Preface, Hebb was very impressed by Hilgard's work on the "hidden observer" as described in Hilgard's book, Divided Consciousness (Hilgard, 1977). In his review of Hilgard's book, Hebb (1978) wrote:

This book is, I believe, of the greatest importance for all of us who are concerned with the study of human thought. It is about hypnosis, but not as afar-out state unconnected with ordinary experience; it is related rather to the divided attention or dual mental process that makes it possible to drive a car and argue politics at the same time. . .(p. 545) . . .

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