View Full Version : Repressed Memories, revisited
09-20-2000, 03:11 AM
I am currently researching repressed memories. I realize this subject has been covered extensively, and I have been able to access other threads, such as the informative thread, "False Memories" http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=22362 . However, I have not been able to access the original "Repressed Memeories" thread, and would appreciate any imput or thoughts on the validity of repressed memories. I would especially welcome any links to studies on the web. DAVID B. , I understand this is particularly an area of interest to you (especially in reference to Urban Legends) and an area in which you have some expertise. Any and all imput would be appreciated.
I am still undecided as to my opinion regarding so-called repressed memories. As usual, I am comfortable sitting on the fence, as I can see my house from here. ;-)
09-20-2000, 07:00 AM
I fear the original thread may be one of the ones that was "archived" and then lost in the switch of MB software. :(
But I can give you some pointers to articles, though not necessarily "studies" on the web.
Here is a series of articles I wrote on Dr. Bennett Braun, one of the leaders of the repressed memory movement -- until his methods were scrutinized, his insurance company settled a number of lawsuits against him, and he lost his license:
The first part of this article discusses a PBS Frontline series on false memories: http://www.reall.org/newsletter/v03/n04/reallity-check.html
You can also check out related entires at The Skeptic's Dictionary, all of which have good links to further reading:
And if that isn't enough, you can go to http://www.skepticplanet.com/ and do a search of almost 19,000 web pages on 40 skeptic sites.
Okay, you have your homework. There will be a quiz in two days. ;)
09-20-2000, 12:15 PM
Thanks so much! (I think...) ;)
09-20-2000, 08:42 PM
I have not been able to access the original "Repressed Memeories" thread
I don't remember that thread.
Oh wait ... it's coming back to me ... I think....
09-20-2000, 09:13 PM
Tracer, was it that bad, darlin'? Bless your heart. I know I therapist who can help you dig up those painful memories... ;)
09-20-2000, 09:45 PM
David, I found your articles to be very interesting and illuminating. Granted, this Braun character is a dangerous crackpot. However, I do have a couple of additional questions for you. First of all, do you believe that all so-called "recovered memories" are bogus?
09-21-2000, 01:18 AM
I'll answer that last question. Of course there is no way to say that "all recovered memories are bogus". But almost all people who were sexually abused remember what happened to them. If repression were common, then how come soldiers, cops, firemen, ER doctors, etc don't constantly forget traumatic incidents? Why would childhood sexual abuse be so much worse than all sorts of other trauma that children experience that is not repressed? Think about what kids in Bosnia and Rwanda go through. How come they aren't wandering about in a daze, having forgotten every horrible thing that happened to them?
What we can say is that memory doesn't work like most people's naive first hypothesis. Memory isn't like a tape recorder. We have proven that hypnosis does not enhance memory, rather it decreases accurate recall since confabulated memories are introduced. We know that incorrect memories happen all the time.
Anyway, of course I can't prove that any random person who says they were sexually assaulted as a child but forgot about it for twenty years is having a false memory. But I can say that that claim is very suspect, especially if it was "recovered" through hypnosis. In any event, what makes us believe that the memory of abuse is more accurate than the former non-memory of abuse? It seems to me that rather than actual events, we are dealing with the same phenomenon that leads people to believe that they have been abducted by aliens or have seen ghosts or talked with god.
09-21-2000, 06:41 AM
Well, Lemur saved me a lot of time by typing in essentially what I was going to say. Thanks! :)
Incidentally, there is one more link I'd like to give you, but I can't post it here because it's on Themestream, which pays the author per hit. I was going to e-mail you, but you don't have that option enabled. So if you're interested, you can e-mail me and I'll send it to you, or go to Themestream and search for it (you're better off e-mailing me :) ).
09-21-2000, 06:52 AM
They are not repressed ... just stored.
09-21-2000, 09:06 AM
Thank you all for your replies.
"What we can say is that memory doesn't work like most people's naive first hypothesis. Memory isn't like a tape recorder. We have proven that hypnosis does not enhance memory, rather it decreases accurate recall since confabulated memories are introduced. We know that incorrect memories happen all the time."
I agree completely regarding memory, as I think we all have experienced the kind of misremembering that was mentioned in the "False Memories" thread. And I have always been mistrustful of hypnosis as a means of recovering or clarifying memories, since the hypnotic state is one of extreme suggestibility. In fact, I believe studies have shown that people who are highly suggestible make the best hypnotic subjects.
I have a couple of thoughts regarding repressed or recovered memories because of some things I have found in my research. Lemur raised several interesting points, such as "If repression were common, then how come soldiers, cops, firemen, ER doctors, etc don't constantly forget traumatic incidents?" Although I haven't found anything to specifically answer that question, I have found the following, http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/25holocst.html , which includes a number of cites regarding memories (or the lack thereof) of Holocaust survivors. Apparently many survivors who were in camps as children have few or no memories of their time there, and according to these various studies, many suffer from vague flashbacks and/or intrusive memory fragments. Perhaps the key is that they were children. As far as the children in Bosnia and Rwanda go, I don't know how much they do or will remember as they get older, as the "repressed memories" issue seems to be about adults remembering childhood events.
"But almost all people who were sexually abused remember what happened to them."
According to my reseach, I would say that the majority remember what happened. For example, "At least 10% of people sexually abused in childhood will have periods of complete amnesia for their abuse, followed by experiences of delayed recall. (Conservative estimate based on published studies.)" http://www.jimhopper.com/memory/#sb This implies, of course, that some 90% of CSA victims DO remember their experiences.
The link above is a clearinghouse of information regarding repressed memories (although the author refers to them as amnesia for reasons of accuracy). I found this site to be fairly even-handed and well researched. There are links there to numerous studies which I will not detail here (the link is available for anyone interested), most of which seem fairly well crafted and reported, which seem to demonstrate that at least some victims of CSA do experience periods of amnesia and delayed recall.
My impression so far is that, somewhere along the line, "repressed memories" became the disease of the week and consequently began to be over-diagnosed. To make a comparison, I believe Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a genuine condition, but I also believe way too many kids are on Ritalin. My concern is that public perception is such that we are tossing the baby out with the bathwater, and that all claims of recovered memories have become suspect, when some may actually be true.
My interest in this is due to the fact that I have a friend who is currently experiencing something that appears to be invasive memory fragments. She doesn't know what to think, and neither do I. She is not currently in therapy, so this is not a situation where these ideas have been suggested to her. She is very cautious and skeptical, and I am researching all this to see if I can help her figure out what's going on and what to do about it.
Any additional thoughts or imput would be appreciated.
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