Fractionating the unitary notion of dissociation: disembodied but not embodied dissociative experiences are associated with exocentric perspective-taking

Jason J. Braithwaite, Kelly James, Hayley Dewe, Nick Medford, Chie Takahashi, Klaus Kessler

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It has been argued that hallucinations which appear to involve shifts in egocentric perspective (e.g., the out-of-body experience, OBE) reflect specific biases in exocentric perspective-taking processes. Via a newly devised perspective-taking task, we examined whether such biases in perspective-taking were present in relation to specific dissociative anomalous body experiences (ABE) - namely the OBE. Participants also completed the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale (CDS; Sierra and Berrios, 2000) which provided measures of additional embodied ABE (unreality of self) and measures of derealization (unreality of surroundings). There were no reliable differences in the level of ABE, emotional numbing, and anomalies in sensory recall reported between the OBE and control group as measured by the corresponding CDS subscales. In contrast, the OBE group did provide significantly elevated measures of derealization ("alienation from surroundings" CDS subscale) relative to the control group. At the same time we also found that the OBE group was significantly more efficient at completing all aspects of the perspective-taking task relative to controls. Collectively, the current findings support fractionating the typically unitary notion of dissociation by proposing a distinction between embodied dissociative experiences and disembodied dissociative experiences - with only the latter being associated with exocentric perspective-taking mechanisms. Our findings - obtained with an ecologically valid task and a homogeneous OBE group - also call for a re-evaluation of the relationship between OBEs and perspective-taking in terms of facilitated disembodied experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number719
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2013 Braithwaite, James, Dewe, Takahashi, Medford and Kessler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • perspective-taking
  • depersonalization
  • dissociation
  • out-of-body experience
  • anomalous bodily experiences


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