People Reporting Experiences of Mediumship Have Higher Dissociation Symptom Scores than Non-mediums, but Below Thresholds for Pathological Dissociation

January 4, 2018
Dean Radin, PhD, Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCR

Wahbeh, H., & Radin, D. (2018). People reporting experiences of mediumship have higher dissociation symptom scores than non-mediums, but below thresholds for pathological dissociation. F1000Research6, 1416. doi:10.12688/f1000research.12019.3


Background: Dissociative states exist on a continuum from nonpathological forms, such as highway hypnosis and day-dreaming, to pathological states of derealization and depersonalization. Claims of communication with deceased individuals, known as mediumship, were once regarded as a pathological form of dissociation, but current definitions recognize the continuum and include distress and functional disability as symptoms of pathology. This study examined the relationship between dissociative symptoms and mediumship in a large convenience sample.

Methods: Secondary analyses of cross-sectional survey data were conducted. The survey included demographics, the Dissociation Experience Scale Taxon (DES-T, score range 0-100), as well as questions about instances of mediumship experiences. Summary statistics and linear and logistic regressions explored the relationship between dissociative symptoms and mediumship endorsement.

Results: 3,023 participants were included and were mostly middle-aged (51 years ± 16; range 17-96), female (70%), Caucasian (85%), college educated (88%), had an annual income over $50,000 (55%), and were raised Christian (71%) but were presently described as Spiritual but not Religious (60%). Mediumship experiences were endorsed by 42% of participants, the experiences usually began in childhood (81%), and 53% had family members who reported similar experiences. The mean DES-T score across all participants was 14.4 ± 17.3, with a mean of 18.2 ± 19.3 for those claiming mediumship experiences and 11.8 ± 15.2 for those who did not (t = -10.3, p < 0.0005). The DES-T threshold score for pathological dissociation is 30.

Conclusions: On average, individuals claiming mediumship experiences had higher dissociation scores than non-claimants, but neither group exceeded the DES-T threshold for pathology. Future studies exploring dissociative differences between these groups may benefit from using more comprehensive measures of dissociative symptoms as well as assessments of functional impairment, which would help in discerning between pathological and non-pathological aspects of these experiences.

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