The Power of Suggestion

Although amazing, our hippocampus and amygdala have their limitations.  Both are a part of our brain’s limbic system, and both play roles in our memory systems. The synergy between the two are suspected to play a significant role in the long-term storage of emotional memories.  Yet, according to J.E. LeDoux, “Emotions are conscious products of unconscious processes.” Here is the kicker and reason for this post.

Emotions influence our declarative memories, and leave remnants of consequences from our emotional responses. These neural transmissions sometimes bypass the usual (longer) route for memory storage and recollection. Hence, this explains why a particular sound or smell may evoke a feeling of anxiousness, without you completely understanding or remembering the event responsible for the behavioral response.  Without corroboration of physical evidence, verifying reported memories can be difficult.  However, this does not mean  they are not true.

Unfortunately, research studies have demonstrated guided retrieval of memories can appear genuine to participants, especially when the participant feels pressured to remember a difficult-to-recall event.  A suggestion as simple as, “imagine this event and the sights and sounds around you, but don’t worry about the accuracy of your memories”, has been shown to elicit completely false memories or disassociated memories.

False memories of events never occurred, whereas disassociated memories are truthful and guided components of memories that meld into one memory. Previous truthful components of memories and guided components become indistinguishable.  The power of suggestion is noteworthy.

~ Dr. Michelle Doscher

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Handwriting in a Digital World

Handwriting is more than written information on paper. It is a tangible piece of our mental processes. I’m not referring to your deepest darkest secrets; only you know those. I am talking about how you choose to communicate your thoughts. Some people rehearse their words in their brain prior to putting pen to paper, others just write freely and worry about editing later. Perhaps, this is why we use digital formatting for most everything; it is easy to edit without leaving smudges or lined-out words in the wake of our emerging discourse. Aesthetically, typed information is easier on the eye and void of unnecessary distractions. So why do law enforcement officials insist on taking written statements with pen and paper? Some may jokingly profess it is the lack of funds for 21st century technology, or others may just shrug and say “that’s the way we have always done it.”. Despite the reason, the unique identifying characteristics of handwriting should not be discounted.

Handwriting, like your DNA, identifies you yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Your handwriting changes with your moods and faculties. Handwriting is a time-stamped view of you! So, what does that say about comparative handwriting analysis? The overall appearance of your handwriting remains fairly consistent, but your writing slant, pressure, and spacing will vary. Something as simple as different widths of pen tips or writing surfaces will affect your handwriting; however, the information directed by your brain will not be altered. All of the typical who, what, when, where, how, and why questions cannot remain locked in our subconscious forever. While writing, we consistently pass along clues to our thought processes. For example, does a handwritten note “sound” like the person who wrote it? Hmm, not so much. Listen to a recorded version of the writer reading their handwritten note. All of a sudden you hear voice inflection and purposeful pauses. Have you ever wondered why movie producers use the author’s voice when showing a person reading a note from another? The effect is more powerful and speaks to our emotions.

Some say handwriting analysis is an art, a subjective science. I agree and disagree. Handwriting analysis can also be a measurable insight into mental processes. My research has shown and continues to show us areas where our brain writing consistently speaks to us with real-time data. Let me show you how this works. Intrigued? Fantastic! Click here, and grab a pen and paper.

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Call for Research Participants

How well do you mask lies?

Single or multiple submissions welcome. Make it a contest! Get your office involved. Assign yourself a 5-digit code to be placed on your writing sample. No identifying information please.

 

Instructions: Please write 4 paragraphs per the below instructions. You may print or write cursive on lined or unlined paper, and it does not matter if you write with a pen or pencil. Scan or photograph your completed statements and email or text them (with your 5-digit code) to: Michelle@MindSleuth.us or (800) 910-0270s.  Results with 5-digit codes will be published on Facebook and in the Spring issue of eliteinvestigativejournal.com

PARAGRAPH #1– Copy the following paragraph.
I was asked to write an article about bitcoins. The editor will contact me with needed edits prior to publishing my article. The compensation will be in virtual dollars.
PARAGRAPH #2
In 3 or more sentences, state your sex, age, your favorite pastime, and why you enjoy this pastime.
PARAGRAPH #3
In 3 or more sentences, write about your dream vacation, as if you just returned from a week of rest and relaxation. Be creative! But, remember, you must have never experienced this vacation.
PARAGRAPH #4
In 3 or more sentences, write about an incident which never occurred.

Thank you for your participation!

Dr. Michelle Doscher

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Your Brain, a Microcosm of a City

All major cities have infrastructure which is needed for operation and maintenance of its society.  Your brain is no different.  Information and essential elements are transported efficiently.  Permanent structures are erected and restructured to meet needs and demands.  Lastly, operations are ever-changing, including changes in function.  As brain scientist Lara Boyd noted, everything we do and encounter changes our brains, for better or for worse.  Are these changes permanent? Yes and no.

We shape the way our microcosm presents itself and functions.  We determine whether certain structures expand or are allowed to diminish.  “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”  Our brains exhibit neuroplasticity; that is why our experiences and gained knowledge affect our perspectives, hence personalities.  Nutritionists often say, “You are what you eat.”  Well, from a psycho-social perspective, “We are what we experience.”  Fill your brain with positive, thought-provoking thoughts and diminish the effects of negative life experiences. These fluctuations will result in behavioral changes, along with awakened brain regions and the opportunity for amplified learning capabilities!

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Top Reasons to Perform a Psychological Autopsy

CoronerTalk.com podcast with Darren Dake & Michelle Doscher, PhD, Psychological Autopsy, Dead or Alive

Initially, psychological autopsies were developed to assist death investigators in determining the manner of death for a known individual. This investigative tool is still used to determine questionable or possibly staged deaths. Psychological autopsies are sometimes performed on suicide victims to try to understand their thought processes, prior to their death. The thoughts, behaviors, moods, and events leading up to the suicide are important in establishing a deceased person’s mental state, prior to his/her demise (Bartol and Bartol, 2012). Odd behaviors, as well as dismissed routine behaviors, should be noted, since they may play an intrinsic role in the trigger or events leading up to the suicide.

There is no standard for conducting psychological autopsies, but a proposed protocol has been published along with a list of 13 suggested documents to collect, when theorizing a person’s mental state (Snider, Hane, and Berman, 2006). These documents are intended to paint a clearer picture of who the deceased was and how he was functioning in society. Not only mental and physical health is considered, but also the person’s family history, their demeanor, social circles, and habits are noted.

No amount of information will ever completely explain why a person acts in a manner that warrants investigation. As humans it is natural to want all questions answered, not just for curiosity but also for purposes of healing. So, why do people react differently, even with similar profiles? Human behavior is unique; we each have different triggers, along with different levels of tolerance and reasoning capabilities. No one person is in the same mental state each second of the day; hence, there is no guaranteed procedure that will predict a person’s mood or actions.

Lastly, psychological autopsies are learning tools to teach others about possible correlations between certain physical and mental states which have led to detrimental outcomes. Profiles are theories and not infallible. However, the quantity and quality of data collected is key to any investigative work.

Bartol, C., & Bartol, A. (2012). Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Snider, J., Hane, S., & Berman, A. (2006). Standardizing the psychological autopsy: Addressing the Daubert standard. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 36, 511-518.

In remembrance of the lives lost and lives changed forever at the hand of violence, may we never forget why we continue to search for the truth. ~Michelle Doscher

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