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Don’t look there, look here!

October 1, 2008

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing  (EMDR) is a strange technique which seems to help people recover from trauma. It’s saved from appearing completely kooky because it fits into the modern “cognitive behavioural” model which in turn draws some of it’s own inferences and methods from the operant conditioning experiments (salivating dogs and button-pushing rats) of mid-last century. While it is not a technique I would use anytime soon, this research makes me wonder if what we are looking at here is a phenomenon related to what Freud called repression. 

BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: What is it about eye wiggling that helps people recover from trauma?.

A controversial treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder involves the traumatised person holding a painful memory in mind while simultaneously following with their eyes the horizontal movements of their therapist’s finger.

Known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), the approach seems to be beneficial and isrecommended by the U.K.’s health advisory body NICE. However, EMDR remains controversial largely because experts can’t agree on why it works.

Now Raymond Gunter and Glen Bodner have tested three possible explanations. In all the experiments, students were asked to recall an occasion that made them feel anxious, fearful or distressed.


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