Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Alan Hartley

Reader 2

Thomas Borowski

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Rights Information

© 2015 Shruti Kannan


The DSM-IV characterizes dissociation as “disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 477) and it has been tenuously linked with trauma, but “lacks a single, coherent referent … that all investigators in the field embrace” (Cardena, 1994). It is known that dissociation is a spectrum (Bernstein and Putnam, 1986; Shor, Orne, and O’Connell, 1962; Spiegel, 1963; Tellegen and Atkinson, 1974), and low levels of dissociation can be a part of normal functioning, allowing us to do two things at once (Butler, Duran and Jasiukitis, 1996), but higher levels can interfere with daily functioning. The present study used survey techniques to investigate the link between dissociation and trauma. Survey results showed a significant correlation between trauma and dissociation. The current investigation also used the high temporal and spatial resolution of electroencephalographic techniques to identify the neurophysiological correlates of dissociation. Specifically, the current investigation recorded early and late event-related potentials in participants who rated high and low in dissociation while they viewed affective pictures in order to determine if there were electrophysiological differences in responses to emotional stimuli. Electroencephalographic results were nonsignificant, but trends indicated that high dissociators showed a heightened response to affective photos at P1 and the late positive potential compared with low dissociators. If the results are thought to be reliable, the trends may indicate that high dissociators were not actively dissociating during the task, and because high dissociators have usually experienced trauma, they are more sensitive to emotional stimuli. Further research is needed to support these theories.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.