What is the link? When considering the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, a key explanation is the malleability of memory – for example leading questions may alter what is remembered. The same explanation can also be applied to multiple personality disorder (more recently called ‘dissociative identity disorder’, DID). The experience of multiple personalities may be explained in terms of the creation of false memories.
In a recent article on the myth of DID, Rosie Waterhouse voices her concern that diagnoses of DID remain acceptable in the UK but have been almost abandoned in the US. Part of the reason for its abandonment is because of a number of successful malpractice suits. In one case a jury awarded $10.6 million to a patient who had been encouraged to believe he had 300 personalities.
But probably a more important factor in the decline of DID diagnoses is the research by Elizabeth Loftus and others on false memories. People who are prone to fantasise can be fairly easily convinced that their experiences are explained in terms of a variety of different personalities. The article by Waterhouse focuses on one ex-DID patient (‘Carol’) who recognised that her diagnosis was wrong while watching Sesame Street. She watched the puppets Grover and Kermit discussing their feelings. ‘Carol’ suddenly realised that all she was experiencing was different emotions, not different personalities.