Repressed memory

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Repressed memory is the discredited theory that someone may, as a way of coping, block out memories of a traumatic event. The theory is almost exclusively applied to child sexual abuse, and is promoted by advocacy groups such as the The Leadership Council in order to provide a basis for Recovered Memory Therapy. These theories are widely recognized as not standing up to empirical scrutiny as there is no reliable evidence that memory repression ever occurs. Several more credible interpretations of apparently repressed memories have been proposed, including false memories and normal forgetfulness. Owing to the discrediting of the repressed memory paradigm, Wikipedia provides a fuller analysis of this subject.

False memories

Substantial evidence shows that memories can be wholly fabricated, often with the guidance of therapy designed to "recover" memories of abuse. Porter, Yuille, and Lehman (1999) were able to create false memories of emotional childhood experiences in 30% of their college sample.[1] Numerous other studies have also had success in implanting false memories.[2][3][4] Whether for social or biological reasons, or a combination of both, children are thought to be prone to fabricating false memories. It may therefore be important not to ask leading or evocative questions when trying to extract testimony from children.[5]

Many "recovered" memories are obviously implausible, as in the case of satanic ritual abuse. Also, a large number of people who claim to recover memories later retract.[6][7][8] has published many of the stories of these retractors.

External links


  1. Porter, S., Yuille, J.C., & Lehman, D.R. (1999). "The nature of real, implanted, and fabricated memories for emotional childhood events: Implications for the recovered memory debate," Law and Human Behavior, 23, 517–537.
  2. Loftus, E. F., Coan, J. A., & Pickrell, J. E. (1996). "Manufacturing false memories using bits of reality." In L. Reder (Ed.), Implicit memory and metacognition (pp. 195-220).
  3. Loftus, E. F., & Pickrell, J. E. (1995). "The formation of false memories," Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720-725.
  4. Hyman, I. E., Husband, T. H., & Billings, J. F. (1995). "False memories of childhood experiences," Applied Cognitive Psychology, 9, 181-197.
  5. Scientific American: Children and False Memories
  6. Pendergrast, M. (1996). Victims of memory: Incest accusations and shattered lives. London: HarperCollins.
  7. Goldstein, Eleanor, and Farmer, Kevin (1993). True Stories of False Memories.
  8. Ost, J., Costall, A., & Bull, R. (2002). "A perfect symmetry? A study of retractors' experiences of making and then repudiating claims of early sexual abuse," Psychology, Crime and Law, 8, 155–181.

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