Repressed and Recovered Memory Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2889 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 9  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

The third factor states that there must be an understanding of the known and potential rates of error. Researchers have found that memory in and of itself can be unreliable and that memory can simply be invented. Therefore the known and potential rates of error are largely unknown.

The fourth factor contends that the practice must have achieved general acceptance amongst professionals. As we stated earlier both the American Psychological Association and the British Psychological Association have both warned practitioners that therapies that may evoke false memories need to be carefully evaluated. In addition, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric association have published reports that declare that recovered memories can lack authenticity and that patients can recall stories that have never occurred. As you can see there is no general acceptance of the theory amongst professional organizations.

These four factors must be carefully weighed when determining the admissibility of any type of evidence. In the case of recovered memory, an attorney could argue that there is simply not enough that is known about the validity of the topic, making it inadmissible in a court of law.


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There has been a limited amount of research done on this topic. The most famous study was conducted by Elizabeth Loftus and involved 100 participants. The study found that 18% of the participants who were also substance abusers had forgotten the abuse that they suffered as a child. (Nichols n.d.) An article published in Issues in Science and Technology, written by a professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, agues that the Loftus study lacks credibility. The author asserts,

Term Paper on Repressed and Recovered Memory Has Assignment

One criticism frequently leveled at Loftus's research is that it occurs under "artificial" (that is, laboratory) conditions and may not apply well to the real-world settings to which she wishes to generalize. After all, the argument goes, Loftus usually tests college students; the materials used in her experiments are not the life-and-death scenarios of the outside world; and the experiments lack many emotional elements common for witnesses to cases of child abuse, rape, etc.(Memories: true or false 2002)

Additional studies on the topic of recovered memory also include; the Williams Study, the Briere & Conte Study and the Herman and Shatzow study. The Williams study was conducted using 200 female participants that had been treated for sexual assault while they were children. (Nichols n.d.)

The study was conducted 17 years after the assault had actually taken place. The participants were asked to recount the events that had happened to them as children. The study found that 38% of the participants did not remember the abuse. (Nichols n.d.)

Many believe that some of the participants had not repressed the memories of abuse but that they were simply to young to remember. This study also failed to determine whether or not repressed memories can be recovered through therapy. (Nichols n.d.)

The Briere & Conte study involved 450 participants all of whom were asked the following question, "During the period of time between when the first forced sexual experience happened and your 18th birthday was there ever a time when you could not remember the forced sexual experience?" (Nichols n.d.) The study found that 59% of the participants had repressed memories of abuse. (Nichols n.d.) Opponents of recovered memory have suggested that the question that was asked in the study is suggestive and can be misinterpreted. Furthermore, they claim that the accuracy of the memories can not be tested and that this study lack credibility. (Nichols n.d.)

The Herman/Shatzow study had 53 participants and all of them were victims of incest at some point in their lives. In this study, about 15 of the participants had been previously diagnosed with severe memory defects. (Nichols n.d.)

The study found that there were 14 members of this group that could not remember being sexually abused. However, the study doesn't document whether or not any of the 14 are the same individuals that suffer with memory defects. (Nichols n.d.)

This study has also been deemed inconclusive.

According to the Journal of Counseling and Development several different studies have shown that there can be many different factors that explain memory loss and the ability the recover memory. The journal asserts,

Research shows that many children can be easily convinced that something that they only imagined or that was suggested to them actually occurred (Ceci, Ross, & Toglia, 1989). Source confusion studies of Foley and Johnson (1985) and Ceci, Huffman, Smith, and Lotus (1994) demonstrated that some (as many as 25%) young children are resistant to efforts aimed at removing implanted inaccurate events, even when they are told by researchers and parents that the memories were concocted. One experiment involved preschoolers playing a game, which included some touching (Ceci, Loftus, et al., 1994). The children were interviewed 1 month later. Each interviewer had a one-page summary of what might have occurred, with some accurate and some inaccurate information. The interviewer was to determine how much of the information the children could still recall. The interviewers were told to use any type of questioning that would elicit the most factually accurate recall. When the questions were based on accurate information about the child's experience, the information extracted included no false memories. However, when the interviewer had inaccurate information, 34% of the 3- and 4-year-olds and 18% of the 5- and 6-year-olds confirmed one or more false events. Thus, bias of the interviewer may encourage children to confabulate, that is, to fabricate information to fill in gaps in memory." (Alessi et al.)

In addition to studies that involve repressed and recovered memories, researchers have also studied false memory. An experiment published in Journal of Parapsychology sought to explain the "operation of psi when reality and imagination were confused. The original experiment used a situation in which participants were encouraged to generate false memories of common household objects." (Blackmore & Rose 2001)

The study asserts a hypothesis which states that it is possible that the confusion of reality and imagination leads people to misinterpret their own imagination as reality, leading them to conclude that a psychic phenomenon has occurred when in fact it has is possible that the confusion of reality and imagination is itself psi-conducive, as though psi can somehow sneak into the uncertainty gap." (Blackmore & Rose 2001)

Participants in the experiment were shown slides of various objects and they were also told to imagine some objects. Over a period of several weeks the participants were asked to draw and describe the objects that they had seen.

The study found that some of the subjects reported seeing objects that were not present in the experiment thus creating a false memory. (Blackmore & Rose 2001) In addition, some reported that they imagined shapes when they had actually seen them. This study illustrated that the mind can sometimes confuse imagination with reality. (Blackmore & Rose 2001) Although this experiment did not involve the testing of sexually abused patients, we can see how an individual might recover memories that are false or imagined.


The purpose of this discussion was to examine the issues and controversies that the psychiatric community is currently facing. We found that many professional organizations have warned practitioners to be vigilant about practicing therapies that may evoke false memories. We also explored the research involving repressed and recovered memory. Our investigation found that most of these studies are inconclusive and not generally accepted by psychiatric organizations.


Memories: true or false. (2002, Fall). Issues in Science and Technology, 19, 7+..

Psychology Dictionary (2003). Retrieved May 19, 2003, at

Alessi, H.D., & Ballard, M.B. (2001). Memory development in children: implications for children as witnesses in situations of possible abuse. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79(4), 398+.

Carroll, (2002). Repressed Memory. Retrieved May 20, 2003, at

Carroll (2002). Repressed Memory Therapy. Retrieved May 18, 2003, at

Cunningham, S., Garry, M. (2000 July) Remembering True and False TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES. USA Today Magazine.

Nichols, P. (n.d.) Attacking the Invisible: tools for preventing the admission of recovered memory evidence at trial. Retrieved May 20, 2003, at

Rose, N., & Blackmore, S. (2001). ARE FALSE MEMORIES PSI-CONDUCIVE?. The Journal of Parapsychology, 65(2), 125.

Sivers, H., Schooler, J., Freyd, J. (2002) Recovered Memories. Elsevier Science. p 169-184 [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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