Psychologists and the Mitchell Effect → Washingtons Blog
Psychologists and the Mitchell Effect - Washingtons Blog

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Psychologists and the Mitchell Effect

John Mitchell was the Attorney-General during the Nixon administration.

His wife - Martha Mitchell - told her psychologist that top White House officials were engaged in illegal activities. Her psychologist labeled these claims as caused by mental illness.

Ultimately, however, the relevant facts of the Watergate scandal vindicated her.

In fact, psychologists have now given a label - the "Martha Mitchell Effect" - to "the process by which a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health clinician mistakes the patient's perception of real events as delusional and misdiagnoses accordingly".

The authors of a paper on this phenomenon ( Bell, V., Halligan, P.W., Ellis, H.D. (2003) Beliefs About Delusions. The Psychologist, 6 (8), 418-422) conclude:

Sometimes, improbable reports are erroneously assumed to be symptoms of mental illness [due to a] failure or inability to verify whether the events have actually taken place, no matter how improbable intuitively they might appear to the busy clinician.
In other words, psychologists who haven't taken the time to examine for themselves the claims of their patients will tend to label as delusional anything which they "intuitively" feel is improbable.

Many psychologists - just as Martha Mitchell's - will tend to assume any claim of conspiracy is improbable. However, conspiracies are actually common occurences which are well-recognized by the law.

Psychologists are even more apt to label government conspiracies as improbable. However, as Martha Mitchell's psychologist learned, they do happen. Watergate, for example, was a conspiracy.

Psychologists who have attempted to label as delusional those who raise the possibility of government conspiracies do not have even a basic understanding of the Martha Mitchell Effect, or have not examined whether or not there is any factual basis for their patient's claims.

Obviously, some people are delusional, and see conspiracies where none exist. But it is equally true that when millions of scientists, military leaders, historians, legal scholars, intelligence officials and other rational people say the government is lying, psychologists who dismiss similar claims by their patients are falling prey to the Martha Mitchell Effect. They are too busy and/or arrogant to actually examine their assumptions as to whether or not the claims which feel improbable to them are true.


  1. Honestly, I think it is a form of human weakness to blindly trust authority. Those are the kinds of people susceptible to cults as well as becoming drones in an authoritarian state. They lack a sense of inner confidence in their own perceptions - so they must accept as "true" anything an authority figure tells them. To me, that is a very serious human weakness. It's someone stuck rather at the level of a baby or 1 or 2 or 3 year old. At that age, they do not question authority because their sense of self is not yet developed.

    It's human weakness and immaturity to blindly assume that what an authority figure says is the truth - and that they can be trusted.

    It is those of us who are adults, self-confident, and mature - who can look at an authority figure, weigh the facts, and decide, "The authority figure is lying to me".

    We're quite healthy. But the other people, they are the reason our country is in the mess it is in. They are not strong and mature and independent enough as adults to play their proper role as a check and balance to the power of government as a citizen. The fault of statist, authoritarianism, fascists, and deceivers in power being allowed to abuse power is, really, the "fault" of the immature among us as citizens. Those psychologists evidenced extreme co-dependency, immaturity, lack of self-confidence because they blindly believed an authority figure. Those psychologists, and those attitudes and lack of maturity and personal inner strength, are the reason our founders would give as the cause for the decline of our freedom. They lack maturity to defend freedom against tyranny.

    We don't. And freedom, therefore, rests upon us - the mature, independent, the strong - those with true American spirit still shining bring and strong in us. (Our founders would be very proud of us - and ashamed of the psychologists who tried to criticize us by their own measure.)


  2. Good points, Grace.

    It's probably ape-leftovers in our psyches, the way we look up to the Big Strong Ape who wants to play King of the Hill. We all just bow our heads down and go along with it.

  3. RichardPaulZuckermanMay 29, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    "We know the danger of a Big Brother state that treats its critics as mentally ill." United States v. Wright, 627 F.2d 1300, 1311 (D.C. Cir. Bazelon 1980); Questioning Authority, c. 1989 or 1990, New York University Press, by the late David L. Bazelon, retired D.C. Circuit Judge, the chapter in the book entitled "The Soviet Parallel".

  4. Psychologists along with Authority Figures are lying if their mouths are moving. You get into a lot of trouble always challenging authority figures and their numbers, but damn it's fun.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Grace, you are absolutely correct. Psychologist's primary function is to ensure your cooperation in society - now called the New World Order. Wonderful name, isn't it?

    The masses are not "trained monkeys", Grace. They are drones. Read Brave New World and Orwell's 1984 again, the parallels to the present course of events is worth considering.

    There is a "conspiracy", if you will, to reduce the population overall. Not just with continuous wars, but famines, sanctions, destruction of societal infrastructures both here and abroad, and covert actions of destabilization all around the globe. One very effective method being used is the current economic calamity - yes, another conspiracy.

    What can you expect from a privately owned banking system that prints money out of thin air in the form of loans. Think about it, please. The Federal Reserve Bank is a private bank. This is a fact. The dollar is a Federal Reserve Note; says so on the top of each dollar bill. Watch the documentary "Money As Debt" - best explanation I've ever heard about the current state of economic affairs. Who, exactly, creates our money? Try asking a psychologist that question.

    Conspiracies abound and our legal system knows it well as they are directly involved in several. 911 screams to us all for a true, honest investigation - the victims of that tragic event (and everyone who has died as a direct result) demand it. There is no looking forward until we solve the problems of the past - a psychologist told me that once upon a time. Someone forgot to tell Obama.

    The consequences of not investigating 911, torture, false wars, et al, are dire. We are condemning our nation to repeat these crimes over and over again, because the real criminals have gotten away with it so many times before. Without the truth, we will experience repeats of all of these heinous crimes over and over again. Different generations, same old sh*t. Great legacy to leave our children, isn't it?

    So, when does the revolution start? Unfortunately, most thinking human beings are also pacifists - we're built that way you know, loving our fellow Mankind and all. Violence is an act of non-thought - doesn't take any thought at all to be violent, it's a reaction. Violence with forethought could be called a conspiracy if it involved more than three people. War is always a conspiracy, it has to be by definition. How many wars are we waging here in the good ol' US of A? The term "War" is a favorite of our government; War on terror, drugs, poverty, you name it. We declare War on all our social problems, don't we? How psycho is that?

    We are entering a Brave New World indeed. Just ask your psychologist.

  7. I am currently experiencing trauma as a result of the Martha Mitchell Effect. I received counselling from a trauma and stress consultant in the mid 1980s to the early 1990s and again from a top clinical psychologist for a year in 2003. I was told that I have PTSD, anxiety and that I am obsessional (OCD). Last month I went for a claim and a psychiatrist has written delusional?? He also says that I have PTSD, good judgement and that what I say is plausible. Unless I provide concrete evidence, anti psychotic medication will be prescribed. My case involves 30 years of police mismanagment which initially arose due to a scandal involving a politician in 1975 and 1976, the full police evidence is still in a safe lock up. I dated a cop when age 16 who was involved in the incident involving the government minister. I have been unable to get my police file, inspite of requests to the Police Commissioner three years ago

    When this is all over I intend to write a book called "The Minefield of Silence"

  8. I didn't know the frustrations of trying to awaken sheeple had a name.. Good to know.


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.