Dissociative-type identity disturbances in undercover agents: Socio-cognitive factors behind false-identity appearances and reenactments

Michel Girodo1, Trevor Deck1, Melanie Morrison1
1University of Ottawa, Canada
Cite this article:  Girodo, M., Deck, T., & Morrison, M. (2002). Dissociative-type identity disturbances in undercover agents: Socio-cognitive factors behind false-identity appearances and reenactments. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 30, 631-644.

Volume 30 Issue 7 | e1210 | Published: November 2002 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2002.30.7.631

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The uncontrolled dissociative-type reappearance of a fabricated false identity in undercover agents was investigated in 48 federal police officers undergoing 3 weeks of undercover field exercises in two separate classes. Half of the officers received passive and covert identity dissimulation training as coverpersons and half received training in active identity dissimulation methods as operators. One class received hypnotic induction procedures to visualize an alter self and the second class was exposed to false-identity constructions under imagination conditions. Participants reported on the appearance of their false identity outside operational contexts and on the reenactment of a false identity in other police officers. Self-reported identity reappearances were more likely to be found among persons scoring higher on the Dissociative Experiences Scale and by persons who altered their physical appearance. Despite expectations to the contrary operators were not more likely than coverpersons to report uncontrolled reappearances of their false identity. Observer-reported false identity reenactments were correlated with self-reports of identity reappearances outside operational contexts. Coverpersons who were more frequently observed to reenact their undercover persona also reported the strongest tendency to reexperience their false-identity. The visualization of an undercover self through imagination exercises and the tendency to use these methods for dissimulations in the field was associated with greater false identity manifestations as reported by observers. Cognitive factors and possibly strain from status inconsistencies appear to underlie these identity disturbances.
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