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Greenacre, P. (2011). The Impostor. Psychoanal Q., 80(4):1025-1046.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 80(4):1025-1046

The Impostor

Phyllis Greenacre

An impostor is not only a liar, but a very special type of liar who imposes on others fabrications of his attainments, position, or worldly possessions. This he may do through misrepresentations of his official (statistical) identity, by presenting himself with a fictitious name, history, and other items of personal identity, either borrowed from some other actual person or fabricated according to some imaginative conception of himself. There are similar falsifications of that part of his identity belonging to his accomplishments, a plagiarizing on a grand scale, or making claims which are grossly implausible. Imposture appears to contain the hope of getting something material, or some other worldly advantage. While the reverse certainly exists among the distinguished, wealthy, and competent persons who lose themselves in cloaks of obscurity and assumed mediocrity, these come less frequently into sharp focus in the public eye. One suspects, however, that some “hysterical” amnesias and dual or multiple personalities are conditions related to imposturous characters. The contrast between the original and the assumed identities may sometimes be not so great in the matter of worldly position, and consequently does not lend itself so readily to the superficial explanation that it has been achieved for direct and material gain.

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