Presentations authored or co-authored by members of the Freyd Dynamics Lab at the

2014 Annual Meeting of the
Western Psychological Association

Portland, Oregon

24-27 April 2014






Invited Talk

Friday 25 April 2014, 11 am -12 noon

Freyd, J.J. (April, 2014, forthcoming).  Interpersonal and Institutional Betrayal. Invited speaker for annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Abstract: Although historically the diagnosis and treatment of trauma emphasized psychological responses to the fear-inducing aspects of traumas, new research suggests that betrayal is just as important – maybe even more important -- in predicting response to interpersonal atrocities and severe relational violations.  Betrayal traumas are events and patterns of events that involve traumas perpetrated by a trusted other (such as child abuse committed by a parent on his or her own child) or even by a trusted institution (such as an organization punishing those who report sexual assault).  Betrayal blindness is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting often exhibited by people towards such betrayal. Victims, perpetrators, and witnesses may display betrayal blindness in order to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend. Freyd will discuss research on interpersonal and institutional betrayal, including findings regarding the impact of betrayal on memory and physical and mental health, the role of gender in risk of interpersonal betrayal trauma, and the exacerbative effect of institutional betrayal on interpersonal traumas. 





Student Conversation Hour

From WPA: The student conversation hours are now set. This is a chance for students to meet informally with our speakers. . .











Poster presentation on Saturday 26 April, beginning at 2:00 PM.
ID: 5964

Gomez, J.M. & Freyd, J.J. (April, 2014, forthcoming).  Dissociation, High Betrayal Child Sexual Abuse, And Hallucinations.  Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Full Poster: pdf image

Abstract: Betrayal trauma theory (Freyd, 1997) proposes that abuse perpetrated by a close other has high betrayal that uniquely contributes to trauma outcomes. High betrayal child sexual abuse is associated with dissociative symptomatology (DePrince et al., 2012) and hallucinations (Gómez & Freyd, 2013). Research suggests that dissociation is a contributing factor to hallucinations (Anketell, Dorahy, & Curran, 2011). We hypothesize that the relationship between high betrayal child sexual abuse and hallucinations is mediated by dissociation. Preliminary regression analyses and Sobel’s test suggest that the significant association between high betrayal child sexual abuse and hallucinations is mediated by dissociation. These results provide support that hallucinations may be dissociative, particularly following high betrayal trauma. Thus, clinical interventions should employ relational models of healing in working with victims of high betrayal child sexual abuse (Birrell & Freyd, 2006), while addressing dissociation and hallucinations as vestiges of trauma (Moskowitz, 2011).





3:00-4:00 PM Friday 25 April 2014

Bernstein, R. E., Smith, C. P., & Hailey, B. (2014, April). See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Substance Use, Physical Health Problems, and Hypervigilance May Attenuate Awareness of Institutional and Interpersonal Betrayals. Symposium to be presented at the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Abstract: Betrayal trauma theory (Freyd, 1996) suggests that when an individual depends on a person or institution in a significant way, it can be adaptive to maintain full or partial unawareness of betrayal that occurs in the relationship. “Betrayal blindness” can help the individual preserve a relationship important for survival when awareness of any violations would set in motion behaviors that threaten the needed relationship (Freyd, DePrince, & Gleaves, 2007). Consistent with betrayal trauma theory, an impressive body of research has demonstrated robust links between betrayal and dissociation, or disengagement from current emotion, sensation, and perception. Beyond dissociation, the authors of this symposium propose that substance use, physical health problems (or, “somaticization”), and hypervigilance (which may represent displaced sensitivity to threat) may also attenuate betrayal-related distress and awareness. Increased understanding of these processes is critical for generating theory about the potential effects of interpersonal or institutional betrayal, as distinct from fear-inducing or distressing experiences that are not betrayals. The symposium investigates psychological, physical, and cognitive processes that may help maintain betrayal blindness in the context of interpersonal or institutional betrayal. The first study investigated institutional betrayal as a moderator of the links between betrayal trauma and self-reported dissociation and physical health problems, and found that these associations were indeed amplified among individuals who had experienced institutional betrayal. The second study investigated correlates of betrayal trauma that might predict problematic substance use in young adulthood. This study found that difficulty evaluating risk interacted with trauma history type to predict amplified rates of problematic substance use for those with a history of traumas characterized by betrayal. The third study investigated hypervigilance and dissociation, and found that while these processes may seem to be opposite poles of an awareness continuum, they were positively related. Additionally, both were related to experiences of interpersonal, but not non-interpersonal trauma.  Taken together, these studies suggest distinct experiences associated with betrayal-related, as opposed to low/no-betrayal-related events, experiences that are hypothesized to help attenuate awareness of betrayal.

Below are the three papers that comprise the symposium:




Symposium Part 1

3:00-4:00 PM Friday 25 April 2014

Smith, C. P. (2014, April, forthcoming). Unawareness and Expression of Interpersonal and Institutional Betrayal. Paper to be presented at meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Abstract: The profound negative impact of interpersonal betrayal (e.g., physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated within a close relationship) has been demonstrated to be associated with a host of negative psychological outcomes (Betrayal Trauma Theory; Freyd, 1994). These psychological outcomes are often consistent with balancing the competing needs of attachment with self-preservation (e.g., dissociation to maintain unawareness of abuse within a necessary relationship). Balancing these competing needs may account for the seemingly disparate physical health problems (e.g., chronic pain and gastrointestinal distress) associated with betrayal. The association between betrayal and physical health problems is likely due to both exposure chronic stress as well as the “safety” of expressing distress physically rather than emotionally (e.g., Fisher, Hunt, Adamsam, & Thurston, 2007). We posit that similar outcomes may be associated with and exacerbated by institutional failures to prevent or respond supportively when to this type of abuse -- what we call “institutional betrayal” (Smith & Freyd, 2013). In the current study we examined the unique predictive power of interpersonal betrayal and institutional betrayal on dissociation and health problems. Consistent with Betrayal Trauma Theory, institutional betrayal predicted both dissociation and health problems even after controlling for interpersonal betrayal. In models examining the interactions between these predictors, individuals who had experienced both interpersonal and institutional betrayal reported the highest levels of both dissociation and health problems (Smith & Freyd, in prep). Also consistent with Betrayal Trauma Theory, dissociation was highest for individuals who indicated continued involvement with the institutions that had betrayed them suggesting that maintaining unawareness of betrayal may continue to be a necessity. This study further expands the empirical base of institutional betrayal as well as demonstrates consistency with Betrayal Trauma Theory.




Symposium Part 2

3:00-4:00 PM Friday 25 April 2014

Hailey, B. (2014, April, forthcoming). Betrayal trauma, risk detection, and substance use. Paper to be presented at meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Abstract: Trauma and substance use co-occur at striking rates. Recent research suggests that interpersonal trauma, as compared to non-interpersonal, predicts problematic substance use (Briere, Hodges, & Godbout, 2010; Hailey & Freyd, under review). Less is known about the dimensions of interpersonal trauma that explain this association. We predicted that problematic substance use would increase in relation to the trauma’s degree of interpersonal betrayal. In addition, we predicted that difficulty discerning and/or heeding risk, a hypothesized correlate of betrayal exposure, would predict increased problematic substance use. Regression analyses revealed that a history of betrayal predicted significantly more difficulty regarding risk, illicit drug use problems, and substance to cope with negative affect than did a history of other traumas. Difficulty regarding risk interacted with trauma history type to predict increased substance use to cope with negative affect among those with trauma histories characterized by betrayal, compared to other traumas. Clinical and research implications for a betrayal trauma-informed understanding of problematic substance use are discussed.




Symposium Part 3

3:00-4:00 PM Friday 25 April 2014

Bernstein, R. E. (April, 2014, forthcoming). Posttraumatic Dissociation and Hypervigilance: Comorbid or Contradictory? Paper to be presented at meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, Oregon, 24-27 April 2014.

Abstract: Betrayal trauma theory (Freyd, 1994) proposes that it is adaptive to maintain full or partial unawareness of betrayal(s) by a depended-other, as awareness could prompt withdrawal/ retaliatory behaviors that could threaten the relationship. Consistent with this theory, research has demonstrated robust associations between betrayal trauma (BT) and dissociation. Interestingly, studies have also found associations between BT and anxiety--a response more closely related to hypervigilance to threat than unawareness of it. The current study (n=486 undergraduates) investigated the relationships between BT, low BT, dissociation, hypervigilance (measured with the new Brief Hypervigilance Scale; Bernstein, Hailey, Knight & Freyd, in prep) using variable-centered and person-centered methods. Partial correlations revealed that the associations between BT and each posttraumatic response remained significant controlling for the other response and for low BT--suggesting that the two responses operate independently. A Latent Profile Analysis revealing four latent classes suggested that dissociation and hypervigilance co-occur, and that both are more closely related to BT than low BT (for complete results see Hailey, Bernstein, Knight, & Freyd, in prep). Implications for theory, research, and clinical practice are discussed.

Also see:

Betrayal Trauma Research
Institutional Betrayal
Our Full Text Articles on Trauma
Additional Lab Posters & Presentations