Reference : Near-death experiences Are they self-defining?
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Poster
Human health sciences : Neurology
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Neurosciences & behavior
Near-death experiences Are they self-defining?
Cassol, Helena mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > GIGA : Coma Group >]
D'Argembeau, Arnaud mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de Psychologie > Département de Psychologie >]
Charland-Verville, Vanessa mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > GIGA : Coma Group >]
Laureys, Steven mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > GIGA : Coma Group >]
Martial, Charlotte mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > GIGA : Coma Group >]
Belgian Brain Congress (BBC) 2018
le 19 octobre 2018
Belgian Brain Council
[en] near-death experiences ; autobiographical memory ; self
[en] Background: Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) are profound psychological events with highly emotional and self-related content, typically encompassing transcendental and mystical elements and occurring when people come close to death (Greyson, 2000). These experiences appear to have significant consequences on peoples’ lives (so-called "NDE experiencers" or "NDErs"; e.g., Noyes, 1980). Given their documented life-transforming effects and their reported importance, NDE memories appear to share similarities with a particular type of autobiographical memories referred to as a self-defining memories (SDMs; Blagov and Singer, 2004). SDMs are the building blocks of identity (Blagov and Singer, 2004) and contribute, in particular, to the sense of self-continuity (Conway et al., 2004) which represents the ability to consider oneself as an entity that extends back into the past and forward into the future (Chandler, 1994).
<br />Objectives: This study aimed at 1) assessing if NDE memories are considered as SDMs and 2) determining whether the potential self-defining dimension of NDEs is due to their phenomenal content or their circumstances of appearance (i.e., presence or absence of impeding death).
<br />Methods: 71 participants were screened using the Greyson NDE scale (48 real NDErs and 23 NDErs-like who had lived a similar experience in absence of life threat; Greyson, 1983). This 16-item multiple-choice validated scale enables to quantify the richness of the experience (scores ranging from 0 to 32) and allows a standardized identification of NDEs (cut-off score of 7). Participants described their two main self-defining memories (SDMs) and completed the Centrality of Event Scale (CES; Berntsen and Rubin, 2006) for each one of them. The CES is a 20-item scale (scores ranging from 0 to 100) designed to assess how central the event is to their identity. Proportions of NDErs who recalled their NDE were calculated for each subgroup (real NDErs and NDErs-like) and a Pearson’s chi square test was performed to compare ratios between them. Later, all participants were divided into two subgroups depending on whether or not they recalled their NDE (no matter its context of occurrence; "NDE recalled" and "NDE not recalled"). The last step of analyses focused on the CES scale and was only carried out on the “NDE recalled” subgroup. Differences in CES total scores between the NDE memory and the other SDM were assessed using a Student’s t-test. Additionally, a Spearman’s correlation was performed to examine associative strength between CES and Greyson NDE scale total scores.
<br />Results: Real NDErs and NDErs-like did not differ regarding the proportion of NDErs who recalled their NDE (30 real NDErs out of 48 and 11 NDErs-like out of 23; p=0.24), suggesting that the self-defining aspect of the experience could be explained by its phenomenological content rather than context of occurrence. These participants (n=41) rated the NDE memory as more central to their identity as compared to the other SDM (p<0.001). Furthermore, the richness of the NDE memory (Greyson NDE scale scores) was positively associated to its centrality (CES scores; p<0.01).
<br />Conclusions: The self-defining status of NDE memories confirms that they constitute an important part of NDErs’ personal identity and highlights the importance for clinicians to facilitate their integration within the self. SDMs are indeed essential to one’s sense of self-continuity, which is crucial for psychological well-being.
Researchers ; Professionals

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