The Relationship between Executive Functioning and Dissociation

Open Access
Bruce, Amanda Schurle
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 14, 2005
Committee Members:
  • William Ray, Committee Chair
  • Peter Andrew Arnett, Committee Member
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Committee Member
  • Joyce Karen Illfelder Kaye, Committee Member
  • neuropsychological measures
  • self-report
  • dissociation
  • executive functioning
  • bistable figures
  • perception
  • reversible figures
  • attention
  • working memory
  • cognitive failures
This study aimed to illuminate the cognitive processes underlying dissociation. To accomplish such a goal, self-report measures, a bistable figure perceptual task, and neuropsychological tests were used. First, the relationship between attention and dissociation was examined. There were no observed differences between high and low dissociators on a measure of selective attention and a continuous performance task. The relationship between dissociation and visual perception was also examined. There were no significant differences between the high and low dissociators’ number of perceptual shifts on a bistable figure task. Further, both high and low dissociators were able to voluntarily control the reversals. These results lead us to believe that reversal rate and dissociative phenomena are orthogonal constructs. The study also sought to explore the relationship between dissociation and the construct of executive functioning. Self-report and neuropsychological measures assessing different aspects of executive functioning were used. It was found that, although highly dissociative individuals report more executive difficulties than low dissociative individuals, these relative difficulties do not show up on their performance on any of the neuropsychological measures of executive functioning. Further investigation of dissociative processes and cognitive functioning is undoubtedly warranted. Future research should also continue to investigate the relationship between dissociative phenomena and executive functioning as measured by self-report and by neuropsychological measures, perhaps using more ecologically valid tests of executive functioning.