This paper has attempted to apply a behavioral analysis to Dissociative Identity Disorder. Why should anyone conclude that a behavioral analysis of this disorder offers any more than other theoretical positions? Behavioral theory treats personality as behavior and identifies the known environmental variables that determine these behaviors. Behavioral theory is personality theory, without granting unnecessary, special status to the behaviors of personality. Other paradigms either reject personality as behavior or attribute causation to inaccessible, internal, and often poorly defined variables (Bliss, 1980, 1984; Bowers et al., 1971; Gur, 1982; Hilgard, 1977; Horton & Miller, 1972; Schenk & Bear, 1981). The same operant variables that occasion and control personality no doubt have a role in Dissociative Identity Disorder. As an alternative to the "ill-defined" variables criticized above, behavioral theory would argue that the person's verbal behavior (overt and covert) and the bases for the person's relevant verbal behavior, as well as their self-observations are variables to be functionally analyzed and manipulated in understanding the behaviors labeled DID. No claim is being made here that the person's verbal behavior is the functional variable behind dissociative behaviors. As Beck stated, "To conclude that cognitions cause depression is analogous to asserting that delusions cause schizophrenia," (Beck, 1991, p. 371). A person's verbal behavior can play multiple roles in interacting with other behaviors, as antecedent stimuli, as concurrent behavior, or as stimuli that have acquired reinforcing or aversive properties, (Skinner, 1957), or as functional variables that either "complement" or override control by other operant contingencies (Catania, Matthews, & Shimoff, 1982, 1990).
Unless a reader is willing to look at the evidence for the effectiveness of behavior analysis, the arguments made here are moot. Some readers, behavioral or otherwise, may consider any discussion of these behaviors to be a waste of time or even an indulgence in "pop psychology" since they don’t really “exist”. However, the behaviors labeled as DID receive a great deal of attention from the lay public and in clinical training programs. Therefore, behavior analysts should take the time to explain their analysis of these behaviors; after all, Skinner (1945) spent considerable time analyzing psychological terms, as did Dollard and Miller (1950). It is not however, productive to discuss this behavior pattern as a unique instance of behavior as it is merely an instance of behavioral variability.
While behavior analysts are hesitant to address this and similar behavior problems, other explanations are being widely read. Behavior analysts have important but unrecognized arguments to contribute to the discussion.