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.