THE PROBLEM AND ITS SCOPE
The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the claims of the originators and practitioners of dianetic therapy. They reported that this particular technique effects significant changes for the better in the therapy of any mental disorder.
The specific problems with which this investigation
was concerned are:
|What is the effect of dianetic therapy upon
the level of intellectual functioning?
|What is the effect of dianetic therapy upon
the level of mathematical functioning?
|What is the effect of dianetic therapy upon
the degree of personality conflicts?
Definition of Terms
A significant change was defined statistically as
of the null hypothesis at the 5% level of confidence.
A change for the better in intellectual performance was defined as a significantly higher score on standardized tests of this function.
A change of the better in the area of personality conflicts was defined as a significantly lower on a standardized test of this function.
Dianetic therapy is a method proposed by
Hubbard1 for curing2
mental disorder by releasing engrams. This therapy is administered
by an "auditor" who effects the release, freeing the patient from the deleterious
influence of engrams.
An "auditor" is "Any person who is intelligent and possessed of average persistency and who is willing to read this book (Hubbard's) thoroughly..."3 However, this study set a more rigorous criterion: an "auditor" is a person who has been trained at one of the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundations and is certified by that foundation to practice dianetic therapy.
A "clear" is "The optimum individual; no longer possessed of any engrams."4
"ENGRAM: Any moment of greater or lesser
'unconsciousness' on the part of the analytical mind which permits the reactive
mind to record; the total content of the mind with all
perceptics."5 This is the single source
of all mental abberations.6
Unconsciousness is a relative state of awareness, its complete loss being suffered only in death. During the relatively lower periods of awareness, engendered by painful or emotional stimuli, all sensory impressions are recorded as engrams.7
"ANALYTICAL MIND: That mind which computesthe 'I' and his conscious."8 The "reactive mind" is the recording apparatus of the entire organism which is operative during moments of lesser consciousness.9
"PERCEPTIC: Any sense message such as sight, sound smell, etc."10
"ABERRATION: Any deviation or departure from rationality. Used in dianetics to include psychosis, neurosis, compulsions and repressions of all kinds and classifications."11
"A release is an individual from whom have been released the current or chronic mental and physical difficulties and painful emotion."12 "If a person has been less unhappy and above normal, he is to be judged as a release."13
Delimitations of the Study
The subjects were chosen from among those who applied
for therapy at a dianetic center in a large city.
The center had a maximum case-load of thirty persons, with more than three times that number of applicants.
The experimental group consisted of the first twenty-four applicants. The following six persons were ignored for the purposes of this study. The next twelve persons constituted the control group. The number of subjects in the experimental group (24) was the maximum multiple of the basic experimental design (8) falling within the limits of experimental subjects available (30). The number of controls (12) was one-half the number of the experimental group (24). The latter group was divided into two sections. The final result was three groups of equal size. This was necessary for the statistical method chosen.14
The period of time between the first and second tests was sixty days.
There were two therapeutic schedules. The first was two sessions a week with each session lasting an hour. The second was two sessions a week with each session lasting two hours. Thus, after sixty days, one experimental group had eighteen hours of therapy, while the other had thirty-six hours of therapy.
Eighteen hours are claimed by dianetic experts to afford more than a sufficient amount of change to be characterized as significantly better.15 The first experimental group had this amount of therapy (18 hours) while the other had twice that amount of therapy (36 hours).
The experimental plan is represented in Figure I.
The tests were chosen from among measures designed for group presentation. The use of individual measures was contraindicated as an undue interference with the dianetic center's operational schedule.
The Need for the Study
Sound ethics require that psychotheraputic
procedures be evaluated. It is an obligation that psychologists should
assume in the public interest. In addition, scientific investigation
helps illuminate new therapeutic claims for purposes of education and
Dianetics is one of the recent methodologies to win public attention. Although it has met with little acclaim in scientific circles, it appears to have attracted a considerable number of adherents elsewhere. The extent and intensity of its adoption indicate the necessity of examining its theories and claims by a practical and objective test of its validity.
This problem is emphasized by Consumer Reports: "Hundreds of 'auditors' have been and are being trained to actively treat sick people. Thousands of sick people are submitting to their ministrations. It is entirely proper and necessary, therefore, that some estimate be made at the present time of the nature and value of these skills and the and the effect that they will have on the mental and physical well-being of people."16
Rubi is distressed by the huge sale of Hubbard's book and looks upon this as "... evidence of the frustrated ambitions, hopes, ideals, anxieties, and worries of the many persons who through it have sought succor."17
Dianetics' popular appeal is attested by the following: Only two months after publication of Hubbard's volume, there were fourteen dianetic groups in New York City and five hundred in the United States; with over fifty-five thousand copies sold.18 After one year of issue, 150,000 copies of this book were sold in the United States and the publishers were then preparing translations in the French, German, Japanese, and Scandinavian languages. The number of non-professional clubs had jumped to over 750,19 and more than 250,000 persons were undergoing dianetic therapy.20
One of the reasons for the growth of dianetics is its clearcut absolution of the patient from any responsibility for his illness.21 Hubbard also claims that his method infallibly results in a cure where others fail or result in occasional remissions.22 He says, "It works. That is the only claim for dianetics or chemistry. They (the principles) may not be True. But they work and work invariably in a finite world."23
Hubbard infers medical support through his close association with Dr. J. A. Winters. Winters writes, "... the medical professionor at least a part of itwas not only aware of the science of dianetics, but had tested its tenets and techniques, and was willing to admit that there was something to it."24 He adds that this system was developed through precise engineering principles with emphasis upon scientific method. He also disparages all other psychological systems as being developed through "metaphysical word-juggling."25 This quasi-scientific testimonial is presented by Hubbard as approval by the medical profession rather than as the personal endorsement it really is.
The lack of conclusive evidence either pro or con has permitted a flurry of opinions. S. Kline26 reviewed both "The Book" (as the adherents of dianetics refer to Hubbard's volume) and the various critical comments, after being favorably impressed by a brief personal experience with dianetic therapy. Schumann27 presents case histories, including his own, detailing positive therapeutic experiences with dianetics. A review of "The Book" by Time magazine28 is generally unfavorable as to the theory and its mode of presentation, but testimonials are quoted from three individuals who benefitted from this method. The Science Digest29 cites sympathetic and hostile critics, yet its tone is essentially negative. A more forceful view is expressed by G. Zilborg30 who attacked dianetics before a forum at the New York Academy of Medicine. A group of prominent psychiatrists undertook a survey of dianetics at the request of the Journal of the American Medical Association. They found it scientifically unacceptable and denied it psychiatric recognition.31 The American Psychological Association adopted unanimously a resolution against Hubbard's unsupported statements.32 Both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Psychiatry rejected articles submitted by Hubbard for publication because of insufficient documentation.33
The only published experimental evaluation of dianetics was reported by Colbert.34 Although his data clearly refute Hubbard's claim of the invariable success of dianetic therapy, his study does not meet accepted scientific criteria for multidimensional analysis. No control groups were used and the expected changes under the experimental conditions could not be determined. In addition, an important characteristic which made for heterogeneity in his population was not controlled that of previous dianetic therapy.
This lone (and inconclusive) study, with the absence of experimentation using accepted techniques and objective methods, suggests that the profound need for definitive investigation of dianetic therapy has not adequately been met.
A Brief Review35
Hubbard visualizes human behavior as the reduction
and distortion of native abilities through the perceived sensation of
environmental experience. These sensations are supposedly recorded
directly within the cell structure during moments of stressful experience.
This is possible even before birth. The entire pattern of stimuli
present at such moments is recorded as a unit (engram) and the repetition
of any one of the components is sufficient to reproduce the original sensation
and reaction. The verbal content of auditory experience, which is recorded
as an engram, exerts a continuous mandatory influence upon the individual
to react to the personal meaning of such content. These "commands"
(as well as the sensory experience) account for symptomatology in mental
disorder, and they militate against the best interests of the organism for
survival. The engram is held separate from other experience and is
not ordinarily available for recall.
The therapeutic procedure aims toward making these engrams conscious by introducing "reverie" states (mild trance). The engram's influence is released (rendered neutral) by its disappearance from the "reverie", because the unconscious engrams are recalled only during this special state. Once released, the disturbing engram is "re-filed" in another memory bank (the conscious) and is no longer a source of discomfort.
This brief review and summary or dianetics presents
many concepts which bear striking similarities to other psychological doctrines,
although the concepts are expressed in new terminology. The development
of Hubbard's system appears to be derived from known therapies through an
eclectic approach. Some of these sources are specifically identified
Survival as the aim of life is a well-established theme incorporated in the work of Darwin,36 Bergson,37 Jung,38, and Adler.39
Hubbard assumes that heredity is relatively passive and that external forces mold the individual to a greater degree. This is reminiscent of both Pavlov's conditioning40 and Watson's behaviorism,41 however, out of context.
The dianetic definition of "engram" was proposed by Richard Semon42 in 1904 although he probably would no approve of Hubbard's elaboration as to its effects.
The experiential reproduction of a total "engram" by the recall of one of its component parts reminds one of Hollingworth's43 concept of "reintegration."
Hubbard's suggestion of the "reactive mind" (the total of all engrams) is apparently a combination of Freud's "unconscious" and Pavlov's conditioned behavior.44
The therapeutic use of recall is akin to Jung's imagination procedure.45 Both pastoral religion46 and Freud have emphasized the efficacy of "abreaction."47,48
The influence of verbal content is not new. "Investigators from Freud up to Flanders Dunbar had long since demonstrated one or another type of association of words with illness."49
A "reverie" state is little different from a mild hypnotic condition.50 This concept was developed from Hubbard's first experiences with deep hypnotic states. Davis notes the resemblance to the development of psychoanalytic technique: "Thus, he travelled the same path as Sigmund Freud who discarded hypnosis and for the same reasontherapy proceeds more soundly if the patient retains awareness. Incidentally, both Freudians and Dianeticists use the Couch."51
Hubbard's test of whether or not an "engram" has been relieved by therapy is the patient's inability to recall it during "reverie." He also combines the "reverie" with the administration of a carbon-dioxide mixture; a procedure initiated by Meduna.52
Perls, a staunch adherent of dianetics and a follower of Winter's group, has taken issue with Hubbard. He writes, "Hubbard, with his mixture of science and fiction, his bombastic way of pretending to something new by giving abstract names... to processes, his rejection of the patient's responsibility... his unsubstantiated claims, makes it easy for anyone to reject his work in toto,..."53
Another of Hubbard's close associates (Campbell) depreciates the originality of his contribution and states, "His approach is, actually, based on some very early work of Freud's, some work of other men,..."54
Hubbard admits familiarity with psychological theories but insists that his formulations have not been influenced by any of them.55
Rubi feels that "he has borrowed from psychoanalysis, Pavlovian conditioning, hypnosis, and fold belief; but, except for the last, these debts are fulsomely denied."56
Time magazine makes the additional observation that "It has a touch of Coueism and a mild resemblance to Buchmanite confession."57
Dianetics is charged by May with a common error; "... trying to construct a simple science of human behavior based on mathematics and using for its models the physical sciences and the machine."58