Desperately seeking evidence: The recovered memory debate

Memon, Amina and Young, Mark (1997) Desperately seeking evidence: The recovered memory debate. [Journal (Paginated)]

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In the 1990s we have seen a startling rise in reports of memories of childhood sexual abuse from adults alleging that the memories were previously `unavailable' to them. Such memories are often `recovered' during psychotherapy and have resulted in fierce debate concerning the reality and reliability of such memories. It is a debate that has elicited considerable controversy in the courts, in academic circles and in professional practice due to its personal, social and political implications. A criminal case based on the recovered memory of a murder was instrumental in bringing the debate to the attention of the public and courts. In 1990, George Franklin was convicted for the murder of a child based primarily on evidence from his daughter Eileen who claimed she had repressed the murder of her friend for 20 years (Maclean, 1993). The conviction was overturned following a successful appeal in 1995 but the case nevertheless remains a poignant example of impact of a recovered memory in the legal context. In the academic domain, recovered memories have presented memory researchers with some challenging questions. The debate has focused attention on conditions under which memories are recovered and the power of suggestion bringing the practices of psychotherapists under close scrutiny. Unfortunately some have interpreted this as an invasion of the therapist's domain and an attempt to undermine the credibility of therapists and victims. This has resulted in a polarisation of the debate, the consequences of which are well illustrated by recent reviews (Loftus and Ketchum, 1994; Ofshe and Watters, 1994, Lindsay and Read, 1995; Pendergrast, 1995). This paper will show how scientific research can inform the courts about the reliability of recovered memory evidence.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:recovered memory, debate, law
Subjects:Psychology > Applied Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
ID Code:642
Deposited By: Memon, Amina
Deposited On:23 Apr 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54


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