Re: The Reality of Repressed Memory

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Fri Nov 10 1995 - 15:16:57 GMT

> From: "Bollons Nicholas" <>
> Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 12:03:16 GMT
> Even if repressed memories are uncovered their authenticity has to
> be proved. It seems that although a person may give certain correct
> information from a memory sometimes parts are either missing or
> incorrect (in the Franklin case Eileen thought the attack happened in
> the morning not the evening).

"Proved" is too strong for science (reserve it for maths): "Supported by
evidence" is more like it. In experiments where the event is known and
has been videotaped, it has been shown that children can easily be led
to misremembering merely by repeated questioning. See the work of our
resident expert on recovered memory, Dr. Amina Memon:

> But it was not the detail of the memories that the article, or Loftus,
> concentrates on, but the idea of repressed memory injection. Laurence
> and Perry had some success through hypnosis and Loftus was able to
> inject a completely false memory of being lost in a shopping mall into
> one subject (Chris) who later verified the account with considerable
> detail, even though it had never occurred. Paul Ingram (Ofshe
> 1992) pleaded guilty to being a member of a Satanic cult and during
> interogation was injected with false memories of abusing his own
> children, which he believed.

These dramatic cases are suggestive, but the controlled experiments of
Steve Ceci and others are more informative. See Dr. Memon's Home Page.

> THOUGHT: It seems that repressed memories have the ability to hide in
> all of us for years and then suddenly re-surface un-expectedly.
> Does this mean that we might all be carrying round certain
> memories, unknown to us, that can help explain our negative moods and
> personality ? Is our mind telling us "that what we don't know won't
> hurt us ".

It's conceivable, but unlikely; the idea is too strongly influenced
by "subconscious mind" thinking. One mind is enough to worry about
and explain, and its own workings are already unconscious. Just
as it's uninformative to explain how someone does something by
saying a conscious little man in his head does it, so it is
uninformative to say an unconscious little man in the head does it:
WE do it, and we are never conscious of HOW. Psychology must work
to find that out for us. The answer will not be that it's done by
a subconscious mind, otherwise we have to ask how THAT one does it!
This applies to memories too -- whether you are esking how you remember
them, or how you forget or suppress them.

Anyway, here are some references to get you started...

Haaken, Janice.
 The debate over recovered memory of sexual abuse: A
 feminist-psychoanalytic perspective.
 Psychiatry: Interpersonal & Biological Processes, 1995 May, v58

Abstract: Presents a feminist-psychoanalytic analysis of the debate over the
 veracity of memories of sexual abuse recovered in treatment. In exploring
 the clinical issues raised by the debate, the author reassesses Freud's
 abandonment of seduction theory and explores problematic issues in
 separating fantasy and memory in female psychosexual development.
 Conflictual aspects of female development are situated in an analysis of
 patriarchal social relationships that continue to mediate feminine
 experience. The author argues that the jettisoning of the concept of
 fantasy in much of the clinical literature on sexual abuse has contributed
 to a reification of memory (that is, as true or false) and a sacrifice of
 complexity in the clinical elaboration of women's abuse experiences.

3. Baars, Bernard J.; McGovern, Katherine.
 Steps toward healing: False memories and traumagenic amnesia may coexist
 in vulnerable populations.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1995 Mar, v4

Abstract: Decries the tendency to polarize around the either-or dichotomy of
 recovered vs false memories as it relates to experiences of child abuse.
 Memory researchers seem to generalize from the mild, 1-shot stressors of
 the laboratory to the severe repeated traumas reported by abused
 populations. Naturalistic studies show (1) some posttraumatic memory
 impairment (not just forgetting, but difficulty remembering in spite of
 repeated efforts); (2) dissociativity, such as emotional numbing and
 detachment; but also (3) increased suggestibility. About 20% of the normal
 population is highly suggestible, and in these individuals it is trivially
 easy to show suggested amnesia, detachment, and perceptual blocking, as
 well as to suggest dramatically false memories. It is vital to assess
 suggestibility and dissociativity in traumatized populations.

Erdelyi, Matthew Hugh; Frame, John D.
 The case of Dr. John D. Frame's first memory: Historical truth and
 psychological distortion.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1995 Mar, v4

Abstract: Describes a 74-yr-old man's 1st memory, going back to his 2nd year of
 life, which was one that he discovered in adolescence to include a
 dramatic distortion. This garbled 1st memory may have much more emotional
 significance for the man than might be obvious from the innocent memory.
 The case also illustrates the inevitable methodological imponderabilities
 in even a highly credible and externally verified real-life memory.

Zaragoza, Maria S.; Mitchell, Karen J.
 Empirical psychology and the repressed memory debate: Current status and
 future directions.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1995 Mar, v4

Abstract: Considers how research on the recovered memory/false memory debate
 informs the professional understanding of the many issues that have been
 raised in the context of the repressed memory (RM) debate. It is important
 to recognize that the construct of an RM mechanism, per se, has yet to be
 scientifically established. Because many claims of recovered memory
 concern childhood events, it is important to understand children's ability
 to accurately record and preserve their experiences. Ultimately, the
 potential veracity of a recovered memory depends on the accuracy of the
 memory that was originally encoded. A final concern associated with the RM
 debate is the false memory syndrome, a term used to refer to the growing
 body of adult allegations of recovered memory of childhood sexual
 victimization thought to be falsely generated, usually in a therapeutic

Bekerian, D. A.; Goodrich, S. J.
 Telling the truth in the recovered memory debate.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1995 Mar, v4

Abstract: The recovered memory debate is the result of antagonism between the
 accuser and the accused, the former of whom recovers memories of events
 (specifically sexual abuse) that the latter denies occurred. The accuser
 and accused are both motivated to enlist expert opinion, often from
 psychologists, to support their claims. The psychologists come from 2
 different orientations, experimental/cognitive and clinical/practitioner.
 The debate eventually shifts to the question of who is likely to be
 telling the truth given the particular circumstances of the case. This
 shift of focus allows memory psychologists to consider more general
 questions about the dynamics involved in remembering trauma. The
 disagreement between experts is difficult to resolve definitively, but has
 engendered needed research and initiated contact between different
 disciplines of psychology.

Fromholt Pia; Larsen, Per; Larsen, Steen F.
 Effects of late-onset depression and recovery on autobiographical memory.
 Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences,
 1995 Mar, v50B (n2, P74-P81).

Abstract: Autobiographical memory of 15 elderly people suffering from a major
 depression for the 1st time was compared to that of 30 Subjects with
 dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) and 30 normal old people (all aged
 71-90 yrs), using a method of free narratives. The chronological
 distribution of memories across the life span was similar in the groups (a
 peak in adolescence and young adulthood, a decrease in midlife, and
 increase in the most recent years), but the depressed Subjects had an
 enhanced recency effect. Whereas the rates of positive, neutral, and
 negative memories were identical in the 3 groups concerning remote events,
 the depressed group recalled proportionally more negative recent memories.
 When the depressed Subjects were reinterviewed 6 mo later when most had
 recovered from depression, the accumulation of negative recent memories
 had become neutral.

 McConkey, Kevin M.
 Hypnosis, memory, and the ethics of uncertainty. 29th Annual Conference of
 the Australian Psychological Society (1994, Wollongong, Australia).
 Australian Psychologist, 1995 Mar, v30 (n1):1-10.

Abstract: Reviews research concerning hypnotically influenced memory, recovered
 memory, and ethics and commitment. The work on hypnosis and memory is
 illustrated by focusing on hypnotic hypermnesia and hypnotic pseudomemory.
 Hypnosis in the forensic setting is illustrated with 2 case examples. The
 need for convergence of scientific evidence, professional behavior, and
 practical ethics applies to all areas of psychology and to all
 psychologists. Guidelines relating to the reporting of recovered memories
 and a code of professional conduct are appended.

Moscovitch, Morris.
 Recovered consciousness: A hypothesis concerning modularity and episodic
 memory. Special Issue: Modularity and the brain.
 Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, 1995 Apr, v17

Abstract: Argues that the medial temporal lobe/hippocampal (MTL/H) complex and
 related limbic structures comprise a memory module that receives only
 consciously apprehended information. The module then binds or conjoins
 into memory traces those neural elements that mediated the conscious
 experience so that effectively "consciousness" is as integral a part of
 the memory traces as it was during the event. When memory traces are
 retrieved, phenomenological records of experienced events, which are
 integrated content-consciousness packets, are recovered. The MTL/H module
 appears to satisfy J. A. Fodor's (see PA, Vol 73:13306) criteria of
 modularity. The MTL/H module is compared with (1) perceptual modules in
 nonfrontal neocortex that mediate performance on tests of memory without
 awareness and (2) prefrontal neocortex that acts as a central
 working-with-memory system operating on MTL/H's input and shallow output.

Levitt, Eugene E.; Pinnell, Cornelia Mare.
 Some additional light on the childhood sexual abuse-psychopathology axis.
 International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 1995 Apr, v43

Abstract: Examines issues related to the correlation between childhood sexual
 abuse (CSA) and adult psychopathology, including the extent of CSA; the
 probability that CSA will result in adult psychopathology; the reliability
 of early life memories in later life; and the role of recovered memory of
 trauma in the healing process. Results of logico-empirical analysis
 indicate that government statistics tend to underestimate the extent of
 abuse, whereas independent surveys tend to overestimate it. Empirical
 investigations of CSA conclude that not all victims are emotionally
 injured. Memory research suggests that memory is a dynamic process and
 that recall of childhood events is particularly vulnerable to distortion.
 There is some clinical evidence that abreaction of a traumatic event in
 adulthood, but not necessarily in childhood, may have a remediative
 effect. (German, French & Spanish abstracts)

Ware, Robert C.
 Scylla and Charybdis: Sexual abuse or "false memory syndrome?"
 Therapy-induced "memories" of sexual abuse.
 Journal of Analytical Psychology, 1995 Jan, v40 (n1):5-22.

Abstract: Presents a psychodynamic hypothesis regarding the origins of
 therapy-induced "false memories" of sexual abuse, which in reality never
 occurred. Sexual abuse is first seen to involve a serious loss of psychic
 structure with much in common with other, endogenous forms of severe
 psychic disorders. The hypothesis draws upon the categories of projective
 identification, projective counter-identification, and psychotic
 personality aspects and adds the Jungian conception of the "mutual
 unconscious" between therapist and patient. Two case histories are
 included. The potential value of "recovered memories" at the subjective
 level is distinguished from the caution that needs to be exercised before
 these memories are declared to be real in an objective sense.

Morfit, Spencer Harris.
 Challenge to psychotherapy: An open letter to psychotherapists concerning
 clinical practice as seen through the lens of the "recovered" or "false
 memory" debate.
 Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 1994 Winter, v20 (n4):234-245.

Abstract: Critically examines the 11 most common arguments on the issue of
 false memory, suggesting the response of professionals to this phenomenon
 is defensive in character, does not resolve the issue, and underestimates
 the credibility of clinical psychotherapy. Both pros and cons of allowing
 false memory as a defense are outlined. It is suggested that the time is
 past when psychotherapy is accepted without question, and the question of
 false memory has intensified this wariness.

Brown, Daniel.
 Pseudomemories: The standard of science and the standard of care in
 trauma treatment.
 American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1995 Jan, v37 (n3):1-24.

Abstract: Critically reviews experimental research on stress and memory and on
 suggestibility and memory in terms of its applicability to pseudomemory
 (PM) production in therapy. Three different kinds of suggestibility are
 identified: hypnotizability, postevent misinformation suggestibility, and
 interrogatory suggestibility. It is hypothesized that interrogatory
 suggestibility alone or the interaction of all 3 poses significant risk
 for PM production. It is argued that a better standard of science is
 needed before claims can be made about PM production in therapy, since no
 experimental studies have been conducted on memory performance or
 suggestibility effects in therapy. However, the findings derived from
 memory research on other populations are useful to inform the standard of
 care in treating recovered memory patients.

Horel, James A.
 Retrieval of color and form during suppression of temporal cortex with
 Behavioural Brain Research, 1994 Dec, v65 (n2):165-172.

Abstract: Five cryodes were implanted on each side over the dorsal aspect of
 inferotemporal cortex (area TEd) of 3 monkeys. Subjects were trained on a
 form discrimination (FD) and 3 color discriminations (CDs). Suppression of
 TEd with cold disrupted retrieval of the CDs, but not the FDs. Subjects
 could find the colors in a background of shifting values of gray,
 indicating that the suppression did not reduce their color perception to
 gray. Subjects initially had great difficulty matching red to red and
 green to green, although that recovered with experience. Subjects tended
 to respond to one or the other of the colors, indicating that they could
 perceive and discriminate them. It is suggested that cooling TEd
 suppresses new and recent learning of CDs, but it does not suppress some
 previous experience that intrudes on performance of new tasks. TEd might
 contain episodic information about colors necessary for performance of the
 immediate task.

Robbins, Arthur D.
 False memories or hidden agendas?
 Journal of Psychohistory, 1995 Winter, v22 (n3):305-311.

Abstract: Contends that there is an organized, well-financed effort to
 undermine the clinical findings of childhood sexual abuse that takes the
 form of litigation, magazine articles, books, TV discussions, and
 "scholarly" discussion. W. Reich's (1994) article on memory is reviewed as
 an example of how the concept of recovered memory is challenged in the
 media without significant evidence or well-reasoned argument. It is argued
 that many abusers are in positions of power and have a vested interest in
 safeguarding the secret of abuse. Knowledge that there is a direct causal
 connection between childhood trauma and adult pathology will prevail.

Yamashita, Hikari; Yoshida, Takashi; Yoneda, Yukihiro; Mori, Etsuro; and
 (Encephalic amnesia presenting deja vu experiences limited to people.).
 Seishin Igaku (Clinical Psychiatry), 1994 Jan, v36 (n1):89-95.
 Language: Japanese.

Abstract: Reports the case of a 41-yr-old woman with herpes simplex
 encephalitis who had marked anterograde amnesia for both verbal and
 nonverbal materials and deja vu experiences concerning other people in the
 acute phase of illness. During a 4-wk hospitalization her deja vu
 experiences disappeared, and her memory impairments recovered to subnormal
 level. Magnetic resonance imaging at a 20-mo follow-up showed mild but
 distinct bilateral hippocampal atrophy. (English abstract)

 Hedges, Lawrence E.
 Remembering, repeating, and working through childhood trauma: The
 psychodynamics of recovered memories, multiple personality, ritual abuse,
 incest, molest, and abduction. Jason Aronson, Inc; Northvale, NJ, US, 1994.

Abstract: (from the jacket) (This book discusses) what is vital to understand
 the psychodynamic roots of remembered (childhood) abuse. Drawing on a
 century of psychoanalytic study of memory and the way it operates in
 therapy, (the author) clarifies the misunderstandings and misinformation
 that currently exist in the media and popular press regarding memory and
 the nature of the psychotherapeutic process.... Hedges reviews the many
 ways in which our memories play tricks on us. He shows how the therapist
 who in uninformed about the power of transference is likely to collude
 with the patient's resistance to transference remembering and thus help
 the person externalize blame for the experienced trauma onto persons
 outside the therapeutic relationship and in the distant past.

 Introduction: The recovered memory crisis.
 Part I: Taking recovered memories seriously.
 Varieties of remembering and forgetting.
 Transference and resistance memories.
 The fear of breakdown, emptiness, and death.
 Part II: Multiple personality reconsidered.
 Background and history of multiplicity.
 Understanding and working with multiples.
 Part III: The dual relationship in psychotherapy.
 The problem of duality.
 In praise of the dual relationship.
 Duality as essential to psychological cure.
 Part IV: Psychotic anxieties and the organizing experience.
 The organizing transference.
 Working through the organizing transference.
 The development of a transference psychosis: Sandy.
 Countertransference to the organizing experience.
 Therapists at risk.

Goodman, Gail S.; Quas, Jodi A.; Batterman-Faunce, Jennifer M.;
 Riddlesberger, M. M.; and others.
 Predictors of accurate and inaccurate memories of traumatic events
 experienced in childhood. Special Issue: The recovered memory/false
 memory debate.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1994 Sep-Dec, v3

Abstract: Identified predictors of accurate vs inaccurate memories of traumatic
 events among 46 children (aged 3-10 yrs). Subjects were interviewed after
 undergoing a stressful medical procedure involving urethral
 catheterization to examine their recollections of the experience. Age
 differences in memory emerged, particularly between younger (aged 3-4 yrs)
 and older Subjects; younger Subjects recalled less about the experience,
 answered fewer questions correctly, and made more errors. Subjects'
 understanding of the event, parental communication and emotional support,
 and Subjects' own emotional reactions also predicted accuracy. Memory did
 not reliably vary for Subjects who endured the medical procedure only once
 or multiple times. Possible precursors of accurate and false memories and
 forgetting of traumatic events experienced in childhood are discussed.

Harvey, Mary R.; Herman, Judith Lewis.
 Amnesia, partial amnesia, and delayed recall among adult survivors of
 childhood trauma. Special Issue: The recovered memory/false memory
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1994 Sep-Dec, v3

Abstract: Presents composite clinical vignettes drawn from 3 adult female
 survivors (aged 25, 34, and 43 yrs) of childhood abuse to describe the
 variations in traumatic recall that are frequently witnessed in clinical
 settings by ethical, observant, and reliable psychotherapists. Among
 survivors, 3 general patterns of traumatic recall can be identified:
 relatively continuous and complete recall of childhood abuse experiences
 coupled with changing interpretations (delayed understanding) of these
 experiences; partial amnesia for abuse events, accompanied by a mixture of
 delayed recall and delayed understanding; and delayed recall following a
 period of profound and pervasive amnesia. Precipitants to delayed recall
 and delayed understanding are discussed. The authors argue that
 characterizing memories as "false" or "true" fail to capture the
 complexity of traumatic remembrance that is witnessed in clinical

Tessler, Minda; Nelson, Katherine.
 Making memories: The influence of joint encoding on later recall by young
 children. Special Issue: The recovered memory/false memory debate.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1994 Sep-Dec, v3

Abstract: Conducted 2 studies to track the way ongoing experience enters past
 memory. Study 1 analyzed talk between 10 mothers and their children (aged
 3-3.5 yrs) during a visit to a museum to determine how adults frame and
 structure experience for young children and how often children internalize
 these frames during their recollections of events. Study 2 studied the
 effects of maternal style on children's encoding and later recall among 48
 mothers and their children (aged 4-4.5 yrs) during a picture-taking walk.
 Strong effects of talk during the experience were found in both studies,
 indicating a social-interactive effect on children's encoding and later
 recall of a situation shared with an adult. Results suggest that
 autobiographical memory development and language are inextricably bound
 together because of the role of linguistic input in adult-child
 construction of experience.

Howe, Mark L.; Courage, Mary L.; Peterson, Carole.
 How can I remember when "I" wasn't there: Long-term retention of
 traumatic experiences and emergence of the cognitive self. Special Issue:
 The recovered memory/false memory debate.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1994 Sep-Dec, v3

Abstract: Examines the nature and onset of very early personal memories,
 particularly traumatic events (TEs), and the role of stress in long-term
 retention. A theory of early autobiographical memory (ABM) is presented,
 in which the unfolding of memory is coincident with the emergence of the
 cognitive self. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the long-term
 retention of 25 children (aged 17-66 mo) regarding early TEs involving
 emergency room treatment showed that children under the age of 2 yrs
 retained limited memories for events that they commonly expressed
 behaviorally, and that coherent ABMs were not constructed until the child
 developed a cognitive sense of self (around 24 mo). The authors suggest
 that (1) ABMs for TEs are essentially the same as those for nonTEs, (2)
 stress is only related to long-term retention, and (3) traumatic memories
 lose peripheral details during the retention interval and retain the
 central components of the event.

Fivush, Robyn.
 Young children's event recall: Are memories constructed through
 discourse? Special Issue: The recovered memory/false memory debate.
 Consciousness & Cognition: An International Journal, 1994 Sep-Dec, v3

Abstract: Examined the ways in which children's event memories may be
 reconstructed or transformed through discussion with others. 19 preschool
 children (aged 40 mo when entering the study) were interviewed, first by
 their mothers and then by a female experimenter, about personally
 experienced events when they were 40, 46, 58, and 70 mo old. At all 4 time
 points, Subjects showed little tendency to incorporate information
 initially provided by mothers into their independent recall of events.
 Subjects were generally inconsistent in the information they recounted in
 conversations with their mother and conversations with the experimenter,
 repeating only about 20% of the information they themselves recalled
 across the 2 interviews. Additional analyses indicated that information
 mutually discussed by the mother and child was no more likely to be
 incorporated or repeated when recalling the event with the experimenter
 than information not mutually discussed.

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