Re: The Reality of Repressed Memory

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sun Nov 26 1995 - 21:46:41 GMT

> From: "Alexandra Bilak" <>
> Date: Fri, 10 Nov 95 10:50:17 GMT
ab> On the one hand, these memories have been proved to be authentic when
ab> for example an exterior eye witness has been able to confirm them, and
ab> on the other hand an element of doubt remains when one thinks about the
ab> possibility of the patient having heard someone talk about an event and
ab> having simply memorized the story and not the event itself. The patient
ab> may as well be lying or simply fantasising.

Some must surely be true, and some as surely false. Some have been
demonstrated true, some demonstrated false. But the real question is
about the true proportions, and whether there is any way to be
reasonably sure in any given case (without eye witnesses).

ab> In the Loftus article, Ganaway suggests that memories (although false)
ab> are honestly believed, if this is the case, then unless they can
ab> actually be shown to be false, it would surely be impossible to
ab> differentiate between truth and reality.

Not exactly. You can believe it as hard as you want: If there's a video
that shows it wasn't so, it wasn't so. What you might mean is that it is
impossible for the SUBJECT to differentiate truth from reality. That's
indeed often true, and one of the weakenesses of introspection.

ab> One could ask oneself at this point why therapists would want to
ab> suggest such worrying things to their patients. It seems that they
ab> believe in the necessity of these memories to be conscious and in the
ab> unhealthiness of them being kept aside, "hidden". Also one of the
ab> reasons might be that therapists simply wish to confirm their own
ab> beliefs, instead of looking elsewhere for "real" evidence.

That's partly what the Grunbaum critique of psychoanalysis seems to
suggest (and today's psychotherapies are the successors of
psychoanalysis). It's the original "hypothesis" that repressed memories
are causing your problems...

ab> is it just that
ab> everyone needs something or someone to blame for their dysfunctional
ab> state - preferably somebody else.

There's something to that, from both the patient's and the therapist's
point of view, and especially in our current culture. Perhaps it's also
a carry-over from our childhood passing-the-buck tendencies ("it wasn't
my fault: he did it"); in some epochs we overdo it by never believing
the child; in others we go the other way...

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:24:14 GMT