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CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, or whatever it is that you think you remember?"

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Presentation on theme: "CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, or whatever it is that you think you remember?""— Presentation transcript:

1 CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, or whatever it is that you think you remember?" Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

2 In 1991, George Franklin, Sr., of San Mateo County in California, became the first person in the USA to be convicted of murder on the basis of only a repressed memory, with absolutely no other corroborating evidence. In this case, it was his daughter, Eileen, who provided the memory. Just as an aside, all the information she gave to the police was freely available in newspaper reports of the murder. She gave no new information. In fact, she "remembered" some information about a ring that the newspapers wrongly reported - so the information that she supposedly "remembered" was false. George Franklin's conviction was overturned in CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus By 2002, in the USA, over 100 prisoners, who had been convicted on the basis of what turned out to be false memories, had been released on later DNA evidence. Some of them had been in jail for over 20 years. Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

3 Holmes (1990) reviewed 60 years of research and found no experimental evidence for the concept of repression. "Warning. The concept of repression has not been validated with experimental research and its use may be hazardous to the accurate interpretation of clinical behavior" (p. 97). CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

4 CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus Yes, say most clinicians. However… --Most common basis for belief is symptomology (e.g., self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, self-destructive behavior). --The Courage to Heal --Therapists often suggest possible abuse and often do not take “no” for an answer. Are Repressed Memories Authentic? Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

5 CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus Harsch & Neisser: memory for Challenger explosion 3 years after event. Laurence & Perry: through hypnosis induced 13 of 27 subjects to believe they had been awaken by a loud noise a week earlier. Pynoos & Nader: children’s recollection of sniper attack. Loftus & Coan: implanted memory of being lost in a 14 year old boy. Two weeks later, the boy was asked to recall which of the memories was false and chose wrong. Case of Paul Ingram Real traumatic memories can be created and altered! Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

6 Counseling therapy is a field in which one often sees slow client progress. Could it be that the human need to know you are accomplishing a goal may fuel the leading of clients? How often does repressed memory return outside of therapy? Clients walking in the door with a recovered memory? Loftus: people fill in the gaps with socially desirable constructions. --Humans want so desperately to explain their maladies, “I’m depressed and sexually dysfunctional because of X (exogenous event).” Is chasing childhood memories a waste of time? CON: The Reality of Repressed Memories by Elizabeth Loftus Swear? Conviction Repression Authentic? Created! Discussion

7 Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences Proponents of dissociative amnesia must provide proof. --Simpler Explanations: -Childhood amnesia -Ordinary forgetfulness -Biological amnesia - “Apparent” Amnesia Do not misquote references that you claim support your side. --Claim 9 references of Pope et al. support dissociative amnesia (see table).table --Problems with the 25 studies SB (page 178 class reading) use in their own paper to claim dissociative amnesia. CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki

8 Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences To provide evidence for dissociative amnesia, run a study: --Define childhood sexual abuse (Finkelhor, 1979) --Define dissociative amnesia --Find subjects who fit both definitions --Eliminate subjects whose amnesia can be explained by simpler known causes --Conduct a clarification interview (Femina et al., 1990) --If still do not remember, then can posit dissociative amnesia Did Brown et al., conduct this study? CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki

9 Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences Memory loss due to severe psychological distress --Traumatic event happens --Repression proper or Primary repression occurs --No amount of normal cuing can retrieve event If it is not traumatic, will a child remember the event, or remember the event and then forget the event? (Piper, 1997; Ofshe & Watters, 1994; Rind et al., 1990) Conclusion: it is hard to fit all cases of CSA into a dissociative amnesia framework, due to the debate of any trauma actually occurring. CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki

10 Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences Other flaws in Brown et al.,: --Fail to recognize that the majority of appellate court cases from have determined that concepts of repressed and recovered memories are neither scientifically accepted nor admissible to a jury. --No distinction between forgetting and repression or reminiscence and recovery of repressed memories. --No distinction between unconscious automatic repression (Primary repression) and conscious, deliberate forgetting of painful experiences (Repression proper). --Proving you never remembered: using retrospective reports to validate dissociative amnesia. CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki

11 Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences People who read these articles are under the misguided assumption that the scientific community supports the concept of repression and recovered memories. Therapists may start or continue to use inappropriate methods to help clients remember certain events. Therapists may blindly follow client’s memories of events. People may use this evidence for personal gain at the expense of other people’s lives. CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki

12 Title APA says… Problems “Retrieved” Triple As Where do we go from here? CON: Where do we go from here? Proclamations and Declarations Proclamations & Declarations

13 People who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them It’s impossible for memories of abuse that have been forgotten for a long time to be remembered It’s possible to construct convincing pseudomemories for events that never occurred Title APA says… Problems “Retrieved” Triple As CON: Where do we go from here? Proclamations and Declarations

14 Clinical and researchers have fundamentally different conceptions of memory. But the problem is more serious -Largely different epistemologies in general -Need for: --Science-informed practice --Practice-informed research Title APA says… Problems “Retrieved” Triple As CON: Where do we go from here? Proclamations and Declarations

15 Accurate memory of real event Distorted memory of real event Confabulation emerging from underlying psychopathology Pseudomemory emerging from exposure to suggestions Self-suggestion from client’s internal suggestive mechanisms Title APA says… Problems “Retrieved” Triple As CON: Where do we go from here? Proclamations and Declarations

16 Not yet known how to distinguish true memories from imagined events Prior belief of the therapist regarding sexual abuse is inappropriate Few cases where adults make accusations of childhood sex abuse based on recovered memories can be proved or disproved Memories can be significantly influenced by questioning, especially in young children Title APA says… Problems “Retrieved” Triple As CON: Where do we go from here? Proclamations and Declarations

17 CON: The Errors of Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield by Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki Misquoting Lack of Evidence Over-inclusiveness Flaws Consequences Cardena & Spiegel state that they found amnesia in 3 to 5% of the most severely affected group. No such statement exists in the Cardena & Spiegel report. Two of 38 victims of lightning suffered amnesia. The boys received the equivalent to an Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT). In a study of flash flood survivors, some suffered from amnesia. No evidence is provided that any of the victims actually forgot the flash flood. 7% of children could not recall parts of flood (separate study) Explained by childhood amnesia. Norwegian camp survivors indicated that 78% suffered from loss of memory or failing memory. Explained by biological amnesia. A study of Bosnian refugees found that 20% suffered amnesia Only 4 subjects. All retrospective reports. Truth:


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