M.B. de Ruiter
- Dissociation: Cognitive capacity or dysfunction?
- Journal of Trauma and Dissociation
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Dissociative experiences are mostly studied as a risk factor for dissociative pathology. Nonpathological dissociation is quite common in the general population, however, and may reflect a constitutionally determined cognitive style rather than a pathological trait acquired through the experience of adverse life events. In a theoretical model, we propose that nonpathological dissociation is characterized by high levels of elaboration learning and reconstructive retrieval, for which enhanced levels of attentional and working memory abilities are a prerequisite. These characteristics, in general, seem to be representative for a higher ability to (re-)construct conscious experiences. We review some of our behavioral as well as neural (i.e., fMRI, ERPs) studies, suggesting that high dissociative individuals are characterized by heightened levels of attention, working memory and episodic memory. In nonpathological conditions a person may benefit from these dissociative abilities, although after adverse (e.g., traumatic) events the disposition may develop into dissociative pathology.