possession n.
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  1. Possession Lecture 13 Consciousness

  2. overview • The last few weeks we have examined agency – who is in control of our actions? • This week’s lecture focuses on experiences when we are taken over by others • Spirit possession • Mediums and channelling • Dissociative Identity Disorder

  3. Spirit Possession • Accounts of spirit possession exist in the Bible and are common in spiritualist churches today • Common throughout the world • Bourguignon (1973) found religiously altered states in 90% of societies, with spirit possession in 52% of cases • Suggests that it is a cultural phenomenon

  4. What happens in spirit possession? • Varies as a function of the culture • Requires a prior belief in spirits • Typically in a social sanctioned ritual involving music and chanting • The host then will go limp • Then into convulsions (e.g. Boddy, 1994; Goodman, 1988)

  5. Mischel and Mischel (1958) • Studied the Shango religion in Trinidad • Often the possessed are those of a lower social status • Allows for the possessed to engage in what would otherwise be inappropriate behaviour – the alibi theory of spirit possession

  6. Speaking in tongues • Glossolalia (i.e., speaking in tongues) is vocalization that sounds language-like but is devoid of semantic meaning or syntax (Samarin, 1972). • • Some go into convulsions or lose consciousness; others are less dramatic. • Some seem to go into a trance • some claim to have amnesia of their speaking in tongues. • All believe they are possessed by the Holy Spirit and that what they utter is meaningful.

  7. What does it feel like to be possessed? • Degree of amnesia about events • Perceived as involuntary • Are people experiencing an altered state, or are they merely pretending?

  8. Oohashi et al. (2002) • Used a portable EEG to measure brain patterns among the spiritually possessed of Bali (known as Kerauhan) • Only one of the participants went into a trance • Increases in theta and alpha frequency • Is possession an altered state of consciousness?

  9. Spanos, Cross, Lepage, and Coristine (1986) • Sixty subjects listened to a 60-second sample of glossolalia (defined to them as pseudolanguage) and then attempted to produce glossolalia on a 30s baseline trial. • Afterward, half of the subjects received two training sessions that included audio- and videotaped samples of glossolalia interspersed with opportunities to practice glossolalia. • About 20% of subjects exhibited fluent without training • 70% of trained participants spoke fluent glossolalia on the post-test. • Explained findings with reference to Social Learning Theory

  10. Spiritualism • Earliest example of spiritualism came from the Fox sisters of New York State. • Communicated with the spirit of a pedlar • Audible rapping noises were heard • led to an interest in the psychic phenomena

  11. Magicians and hoaxers

  12. Pepper’s Ghost • A viewer looking through the red rectangle sees a ghost floating next to the table. The illusion is created by a large piece of glass or a half-silvered mirror, situated between viewer and scene (green outline). The glass reflects a mirror-image room (left) that is hidden from the viewer.

  13. Spiritualist Churches • Despite the unmasking of the Davenports and others, by the eventual admission of Margaret Fox (in 1888) there were 8 million spiritualists in the US • Spiritualist churches still survive today • The service is usually conducted by a medium. • an opening prayer, an address, hymns and finally a demonstration of mediumship.

  14. Mediumship • Like possession 19th century mediumship involved an induction process • Messages were produced from beyond the grave • Ectoplasm • The medium claimed that the process was involuntary • Modern mediumship falls into two categories • Trance channelling • Conscious channelling – which we will discuss later in the module

  15. Famous spirits • Seth • Channelled by Jane Roberts after using a Ouija board in the 60s. • Roberts went into a trance and channelled Seth • The material discusses the nature of physical reality, the origins of the universe, the theory of evolution, the Christ story, and the purpose of life, among other subjects. • According to Roberts, Seth claimed to be speaking from an adjacent plane of existence • Elvis • Paula Farmer has channelled Elvis and produced the seminal work “Elvis Aaron Presley: His Growth and Development as a Soul Spirit within the Universe” • Elvis discusses his views on life, death, God, popular music, etc.

  16. Common mistakes in Channelling • The evidence for trance channelling appears slim • Many channellers makes mistakes in diction, or accent or grammar when channelling ancient spirits. • guides to channelling often seem to be guides to pretending

  17. Channeling: How to reach out to your spirit guide • “as people begin to channel, they almost inevitably feel as if they are making it up… When my students complain that they’re just making it up, I tell the, ‘Good. Continue to make it up.’ Allow your imagination to roam freely. ..Don’t allow your rational mind to rule at that time. Push its thoughts aside; soon enough it will be back in control”

  18. Dissociative Identity Disorder • Although earlier cases have been recognised multiple personality disorder (now DID) gained a wider attention through the book and film Sybil: • “One day, when she was talking to me about something that should have made her angry, she jumped off the couch, went over and struck her fist through one of the window panes in my office. I jumped out of my chair, ran over, grabbed her wrist and said "Let me see if you cut yourself." She ducked down and hunched her shoulders, peered up at me and said, "Let me go." I said, "No, I want to see your hand, and if you cut yourself." She looked at me and said, "Am I more important than the window?" I said, "Certainly. A handyman can fix the window, but if you are cut, it would take a doctor to sew you up." She had not cut herself, but she was not talking like her typical self. She looked younger and frightened, so I asked her a spontaneous question, "Who are you?" She said, "I am Peggy." I thought immediate that this must be a dual personality, but I said nothing to the patient about this.”

  19. DID is assumed to occur as a response to childhood trauma • Average number of personalities is 13 (Putnam et al., 1986) • The personalities often differ in terms of age, name and gender, speech and physical symptoms

  20. Birnbaum and Thomann (1996) • over a 3-year period tested a patient with DID differences in dominant handedness, response to the same medication, allergic sensitivities, autonomic and endocrine function, EEG, VEP, and regional cerebral blood flow. • Differences also found in visual function including variability in visual acuity, refraction, visual field, colour vision,

  21. Socio-Cognitive explanations • Spanos (1996) comments that the incidence of DID varies with the therapist • He views DID as a very similar process to hypnosis and glossolalia, as "rule-governed social constructions."

  22. Hunjens et al. (2005) • People with DID report inter-identity amnesia – i.e. they are not aware of other identities • Used an implicit learning task to assess procedural memory • Real-simulator design • Results seemed to suggest a pattern of inter-identity amnesia for both DIDs and simulators

  23. Gennaro, Herrman and Sarapata (2006) • Argue that the memory failures in DID are failures associated with the unity of consciousness • They argue that many slips of action (e.g. forgetting things, forgetting to do something) are less dramatic examples of such failures • The same mechanism accounts for both

  24. Wegner (2002) • Argues that spirit possession, channelling, and DID are all manifestations of his theory of apparent mental causation • Argues that we all possess virtual agents, and that they vary within each person

  25. References • Wegner, D.M. (2002). The illusion of conscious will. MIT press: Cambridge, MA. Chapter 7 covers virtual agency. • Huntjens, R.J.C.; Postma, A.; Woertman, L.; van der Hart, O.; Peters, M.L (2005) Procedural memory in dissociative identity disorder: When can inter-identity amnesia be truly established? Consciousness and Cognition, 14, 377-389. • Lilienfeld, S O., et al. (1999). "Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Sociocognitive Model: Recalling the Lessons of the Past," Psychological Bulletin, 125(5) 507-523. • Spanos NP, Cross P, Lepage M, Coristine M. (1986). Glossolalia as learned behavior: an experimental demonstration. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 21-23 • Spanos. N. (2002). Multiple Identities and False Memories. (parts 3 and 4).