Figure 187

Memory performance in a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder. Based on data in Nissen et al. (1988).

memory for words was tested by means of an implicit memory test (word completion) and an explicit memory test (recall). Performance on both tests was much worse when the personality at the time of test was different from the personality at learning. In contrast, recognition memory for faces was almost as good when the personality changed between learning and test as when it remained the same (42% vs. 52%, respectively). Finally, there was an implicit task in which repeated and non-repeated words had to be identified from very brief presentations. Donna performed this task, then Charles, and then Donna again. Donna's performance on the repeated words was much better after Charles had performed the task than beforehand.

The findings from this woman produced evidence of strong personality-dependent effects with some explicit and implicit memory tasks, but weak or non-existent personality-dependent effects with other explicit and implicit memory tasks. Nissen et al. (1988, p. 131) accounted for the findings as follows:

Material that allows a variety of different interpretations or whose encoding is significantly guided by strategic processing, or whose interpretation might be expected to depend on one's mood and beliefs and biases is relatively inaccessible across personalities.

It should be noted in conclusion that the whole notion of multiple personality disorder remains controversial. More research is needed to prove (or disprove) its existence.

Mood congruity

There is more experimental support for mood congruity than for any of the other hypotheses put forward by Gilligan and Bower (1984). The usual procedure is that a mood is induced, followed by the learning of a list or the reading of a story containing emotionally toned material. There is then a memory test for the list or the story after the participant's mood has returned to normal. Mood congruity is shown by recall being greatest when the affective value of the to-be-learned material matches the participant's mood state at the time of learning.


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