Sybil `all in doctor's head'

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The Independent Online
SYBIL WAS the most famous case of multiple personality on record, the subject of a book and a film that made the idea one of the hottest concepts on psychology in the 1970s. But, according to research released at the weekend, Sybil was just Sybil.

Dr Cornelia Wilbur, Sybil's psychiatrist, may have suggested the other personalities as an explanation for the woman's problems, Robert Rieber of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York told the American Psychological Association. "Sybil is a phony multiple-personality case at best," he told The New York Times.

Sybil has never been named, though Dr Rieber said that she died last December. He received tapes of conversations between Dr Wilbur and Flora Schreiber, who wrote a book about Sybil in 1973 describing how she had 16 personalities. What he heard convinced him that the multiple personalities were in Dr Wilbur's head, not Sybil's. Dr Wilbur tells Ms Schreiber: "I said, `Well, there's a personality who calls herself Peggy'. And I said, `She is pretty assertive... she can do things you can't', and (Sybil) was very, uh, obviously perturbed by this." According to Dr Rieber, Dr Wilbur used different names to describe aspects of Sybil's character.

Sybil wrote a letter to Dr Wilbur in which she disclaimed having multiple personalities, but Dr Wilbur ignored it, Dr Rieber said.