Why “Trauma-Related Dissociation” Is a Misnomer in Courts: a Critical Analysis of Brand et al. (2017a, b)

Abstract

Forensic psychologists are sometimes faced with the task of educating triers of fact about the evidential weight of dissociative experiences reported by claimants in litigation procedures. In their two-part essay, Brand et al. (Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 283–297, 2017a; Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 298–312, 2017b) provide advice to experts who find themselves in such situation. We argue that the Brand et al. approach is problematic and might induce confirmation bias in experts. Their approach is not well connected to the extant literature on recovered memories, dissociative amnesia, memory distortions, and symptom validity testing. In some instances, Brand et al. (Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 283–297, 2017a; Psychological Injury and Law, 10, 298–312, 2017b) simplify the current body of knowledge about dissociation; in other instances, they ignore relevant empirical studies to an extent that is worrisome.

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Correspondence to Harald Merckelbach.

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Merckelbach, H., Patihis, L. Why “Trauma-Related Dissociation” Is a Misnomer in Courts: a Critical Analysis of Brand et al. (2017a, b). Psychol. Inj. and Law 11, 370–376 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12207-018-9328-8

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Keywords

  • Dissociative symptoms
  • Symptom validity
  • Biases
  • Expert witness testimony