Ok, my thoughts on Cecil’s MPD article:
His first big point is an explosion in reported cases around 1980. Wow, you mean the reported number of cases increased when people (including therapists) had actually heard of it? (as he points out about Sybil, in the 70s this phenomenon became known) Shocking. Ive heard the same argument used for schizophrenia. If there were almost no cases 200 years ago thats probably because if i was hearing voices or acting the way a typical DID person acts the resources for me or my family would consist of a church (which would probably try to exorcise me or burn me at the stake), the ‘doctors’ of the time (who would probably either try to attach leeches to me, throw me in an asylum which make todays psych wards look fun or drill holes in my head to release pressure), or whichever wise old person of this or that village had an old wives tale they thought would help (who knows what that would involve).
Also with the disorder suddenly being in the publics attention, it might suddenly have been more acceptable to tell a doctor about this, whereas prior to this time they may have feared what others would think, feared what was going on, or feared the ignorance of others. Of course, one should never underestimate the ignorance of others.
Consider how many alcoholics there were prior to 1900 (according to any record you can find that is). I dont have any numbers, but im betting its a pretty small number compared to what you have today. Maybe thatll be next weeks column: why alcoholics dont exist.
The second big point of his i found interesting was the study he quotes, where people hesitate when asked about words implying a mental process going on, possibly being a ‘i shouldnt know this’ thought. Even assuming the study shows a statistically significant hesitation, with no researcher bias, and even assuming their conclusion is actually shown. All theyve done is show that the minds were connected to some degree. No one understands completely how memory is stored, it is entirely possible that the neural pathway of one conciousness was present to a lesser degree even when the brain was being used by another personality. The hesitation could very well be explained as getting multiple contradictory answers at once.
If anything it would be more surprising if this was not the case, based on our current understanding on neural connection strength, and the fact that two personalities, no matter how different, are sharing the same brain.
I will give him that it is entirely possible the numbers obtained in the 1980s were inflated by some overzealous therapists who found multiple personalities in everyone, its possible. But for him to claim that the numbers being obtained in the 1800s are reflective of reality is absurd.
Whether hes right or not, theres very easy alternate explanations to his assertions.