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When a child experiences a traumatic event, such as sexual abuse, it may not be until well into adulthood that they remember the incident.

It is not known how adults are able to retrieve long-forgotten memories of abuse and there has been some controversy as to the authenticity of these reports. The results of a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that there are important differences between people who gradually recover memories of abuse during suggestive therapy sessions and those who recover memories of abuse more spontaneously.

Psychologist Elke Geraerts of the University of St. Andrews and her colleagues reveal that these people are either susceptible to recovering false memories or have a tendency to forget earlier recollections of the abuse. The study volunteers included women who were classified into four groups, based on their responses during a preliminary interview. All of these women participated in a false-memory test. They studied a list of related words such as bed , rest , awake and tired.

After a few minutes, they were shown a set of words which included ones they had studied as well as new words and had to indicate which words were on the original list.

The results showed that the women who recovered their memories of childhood sexual abuse during suggestive therapy were the most prone to false memories. For instance, women from this group were more likely to select sleep in the example above as having been on the original list, when in fact, it was not. The results of this test revealed that the group who spontaneously recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse was the most likely to forget that they had successfully remembered certain words earlier.

The authors suggest that these clinicians should consider the context of the recovered memories to most effectively treat their patients. Maybe in the future with the ever increasing paper trail, the victims of abuse not only will have legal documented prof when adults, but the perpetrators caught in the act and stopped when the individual is still a child.

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Differences in Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse – Association for Psychological Science

Our memories shape how we think about the past, how we plan for the future, and how we think about ourselves. Yet our memories are also constantly being reinvented: False and Distorted Memories provides an overview of recent and ongoing developments in the science of false memory.

World-leading researchers unpick questions about flawed recollections, discussing issues as varied as the reliability of highly emotional memories, why we sometimes begin to remember fictional experiences that we have deliberately fabricated, and what happens when we stop believing our memories.

Each chapter demonstrates how memory science has furthered our understanding of these important questions, by exploring theoretical ideas and psychological research methods that underpin their investigations.

Edited by Robert Nash and James Ost, this volume offers an international and up-to-date perspective on false and distorted memories. The volume also draws attention to the broad range of real-life contexts in which such distortions might arise and their potential consequences. False and Distorted Memories illustrates the ease with which memory can be contaminated and the power of the resulting memory errors, providing an integral text for researchers and students interested in the psychology of memory.

Thousands of families are victims of therapy based on retrieving childhood memories based on pseudoscientific techniques which induce false memories. The victims of this destructive therapy are persuaded to cut off contact with all family members who question the new memories, even though no evidence of the abuse is ever established. Women who have experienced this type of therapy describe how they were led to believe they were sexually abused but now they realize the incest never occurred.

They tell how they WERE abused--by the very people they went to for help. Box , Boca Raton, FL As one of the most hotly debated topics of the past decade, false memory has attracted the interest of researchers and practitioners in many of psychology's subdisciplines. Real-world issues surrounding the credibility of memories particularly memories of traumatic events, such as sexual abuse reported by both children and adults have been at the center of this debate.

Were the adults actually retrieving repressed memories under the careful direction of psychotherapists, or were the memories being "created" by repeated suggestion? Were children telling investigators about events that actually happened, or were the interviewing techniques used to get at unpleasant experiences serving to implant memories that eventually became their own?

There is evidence in the psychological research literature to support both sides, and the potential impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole has been profound.

The contributors review seminal work from their own research programs and provide theory and critical evaluation of existing research that is necessary to translate theory into practice.

The book will be of great value to basic and applied memory researchers, clinical and social psychologists, and other professionals working within the helping and legal professions. Univ of California Press Format Available: In the last decade, reports of incest have exploded into the national consciousness. Magazines, talk shows, and mass market paperbacks have taken on the subject as many Americans, primarily women, have come forward with graphic memories of childhood abuse.

Making Monsters examines the methods of therapists who treat patients for depression by working to draw out memories or, with the use of hypnosis, to encourage fantasies of childhood abuse the patients are told they have repressed. Since this therapy may leave the patient more depressed and alienated than before, questions are appropriately raised here about the ethics and efficacy of such treatment. Professor Daniel Reisberg Language: A robbery victim tries to remember how the crime unfolded and who was present at the scene.

A medical patient recalls the doctor saying that the pain in her side wasn't worrisome, and now that the tumor is much larger, she's suing. An investigation of insider trading hinges on someone's memory of exactly what was said at a particular business meeting.

In these and countless other examples, our ability to remember our experiences is crucial for the justice system. The problem, though, is that perception and memory are fallible. How often do our eyes or memories deceive us? Is there some way to avoid these errors?

Can we specify the circumstances in which perceptual or memory errors are more or less likely to occur? Professor Daniel Reisberg tackles these questions by drawing on the available science and his personal experience training attorneys. He provides detailed pragmatic advice that will prove helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors, defenders, and anyone else who hopes to maximize the quality of the evidence available to the courts -- whether the evidence is coming from witnesses, victims, or defendants.

This book is carefully rooted in research but written in a way that will make it fully accessible to non-scientists working in the justice system. Early chapters provide an overview of the relevant science and a broad portrait of how perception and memory function. Later chapters offer practical solutions for navigating situations involving eyewitness identifications, remembered conversations, evidence obtained from interviews with children, confession evidence, and the risks of false confession.

More recently, findings from cognitive psychology and neuroimaging as well as new theoretical constructs are bringing balance, if not reconciliation, to this polarizing debate. Jim denied the allegations, claiming that Roberta was influenced by her therapist's suggestive questioning and that she was looking for someone or something to blame for her troubles. How did people react to Roberta's claim? Did their reactions differ from reactions to a case that was identical except for the repression of memory?

A different set of subjects reacted to a modified scenario involving a different woman Nancy whose memory was not repressed. Nancy's factual situation was identical to Roberta's except, subjects were told, Nancy never told anyone until age 20, when she went into therapy and told her therapist.

Who is believed more, Roberta or Nancy? Several consistent findings emerged from these studies. First, people tended to be slightly more skeptical about Roberta's case the repressed memory than they were about Nancy's case the nonrepressed memory. Both male and female subjects reacted this way, with males overall being more skeptical. When subjects disbelieved the claims, they were more likely to think that the false claims were due to an honest mistake than a deliberate lie.

One small difference emerged—repressed and nonrepressed memory cases appear to bring slightly different thoughts to mind. When subjects considered Nancy's case, thoughts of lying were slightly more likely to be evoked than when they considered Roberta's case. One of the clearest results was that, in general, the majority of subjects believed that the claims of both Roberta and Nancy were true and accurate.

The quality of the memories that filter back vary tremendously. They are sometimes detailed and vivid and sometimes very vague. Sometimes they pertain to events that allegedly happened in early childhood and sometimes in adolescence. Sometimes they pertain to events that allegedly happened 5 years ago and sometimes 40 years ago.

Sometimes they include fondling, sometimes rape, and sometimes ritualism of an unimaginable sort. Highly detailed memories have been reported even for events that allegedly happened more than 25 years earlier and during the first year of life. One father—daughter case recently tried in Santa Clara County, California, illustrates this pattern Collier v.

The daughter, DC, a college graduate who worked as a technical writer, claimed that her father sexually abused her from the time she was six months old until she was She repressed the memories until the age of approximately 26, when she was in individual and group therapy. Other cases involve richly detailed allegations of a more bizarre, ritualistic type, as in a case reported by Rogers a. The plaintiff, Bonnie, in her late 40s at the time of trial, accused her parents of physically, sexually, and emotionally abusing her from birth to approximately age A sister, Patti, in her mids at the time of trial, said she was abused from infancy to age The allegations involved torture by drugs, electric shock, rape, sodomy, forced oral sex, and ritualistic killing of babies born to or aborted by the daughters.

The events were first recalled when the plaintiffs went into therapy in the late s. In short, reports of memories after years of repression are as varied as they can be.

One important way that they differ is in terms of the age at which the events being remembered allegedly happened. In many instances, repressed memory claims refer to events that occurred when the child was one year old or less. This observation invites an examination of the literature on childhood amnesia. It is well known that humans experience a poverty of recollections of their first several years in life.

Contemporary cognitive psychologists place the offset of childhood amnesia at a somewhat earlier age: Still, the literature on childhood amnesia ought to figure in some way into our thinking about recollections of child molestation that supposedly occurred in infancy. Many therapists believe in the authenticity of the recovered memories that they hear from their clients.

Two emprical studies reveal this high degree of faith. Bottoms, Shaver, and Goodman conducted a large-scale survey of clinicians who had come across, in their practice, ritualistic and religion-related abuse cases. Clients with SRA memories have reported vividly detailed memories of cannibalistic revels and such experiences as being used by cults during adolescence as serial baby breeders to provide untraceable infants for ritual sacrifices Ganaway, ; Rogers, b.

If therapists believe these types of claims, it seems likely that they would be even more likely to believe the less aggravated claims involving ordinary childhood sexual abuse.

The conclusion was, in the investigators' own words, "The clinical psychologists in our sample believe their clients' claims" p. A different approach to the issue of therapist belief was taken by Loftus and Herzog This study involved in-depth interviews with 16 clinicians who had seen at least one repressed memory case.

One therapist said, "if a woman said it happened, it happened. More than two thirds of the clinicians reacted emotionally to any use of the term authentic, feeling that determining what is authentic and what is not authentic is not the job of a therapist. The conclusion from this small study was that therapists believe their clients and often use symptomatology as evidence. These and other data suggest that therapists believe in their clients' memories.

They point to symptomatology as their evidence. They are impressed with the emotional pain that accompanies the expression of the memories.

Dawes has argued that this "epidemic" of belief is based in large part on authority and social consensus p. There are those with extreme positions who would like to deny the authenticity of all repressed memories and those who would accept them all as true. As Van Benschoten has pointed out, these extreme positions will exacerbate our problems: If we assume, then, that some of the memories might be authentic and some might not be, we can then raise this question: If a memory is recovered that is not authentic, where would it come from?

Ganaway proposed several hypotheses to explain SRA memories, and these same ideas are relevant to memories of a repressed past. If not authentic, the memories could be due to fantasy, illusion, or hallucination-mediated screen memories, internally derived as a defense mechanism.

Further paraphrasing Ganaway, the SRA memories combine a mixture of borrowed ideas, characters, myths, and accounts from exogenous sources with idiosyncratic internal beliefs. Once activated, the manufactured memories are indistinguishable from factual memories. Inauthentic memories could also be externally derived as a result of unintentional implantation of suggestion by a therapist or other perceived authority figure with whom the client desires a special relationship, interest, or approval.

There is no doubt that childhood sexual abuse is tragically common Daro, A sizeable number of people who enter therapy were abused as children and have always remembered their abuse. Even when they have severe emotional problems, they can provide rich recollections of abuse, often with many unique, peripheral details Rogers, a.

Occasionally the abuse is corroborated, sometimes with very cogent corroboration, such as pornographic photographs. If confirmed abuse is prevalent, many instances of repressed memory abuse cases also could be authentic. Unfortunately, in the repressed memory cases, particularly when memories do not return for 20 or 30 years, there is little in the way of documented corroboration. This, of course, does not mean that they are false.

Claims of corroborated repressed memories occasionally appear in the published literature. For example, Mack reported on a case involving a year-old borderline man who, during therapy, recovered memories of witnessing his mother attempting to kill herself by hanging. The man's father later confirmed that the mother had attempted suicide several times and that the son had witnessed one attempt when he was 3 years old. The father's confirmation apparently led to a relief of symptoms in the son.

It is hard to know what to make of examples such as these. Did the son really remember back to age 3, or did he hear discussions of his mother's suicide attempts later in life? The memories could be real, that is, genuine instances of repressed memories that accurately returned much later.

If true, this would only prove that some memory reports are authentic but obviously not that all reports are authentic. Analogously, examples of repressed memories that were later retracted, later proved to be false, or later proved to be the result of suggestion would only prove that some memory reports are not authentic but obviously not that all such reports are illusory. Some who question the authenticity of the memories of abuse do so in part because of the intensity and sincerity of the accused persons who deny the abuse.

Many of the thousands of people who have been accused flatly deny the allegations, and the cry of "witch hunt" is often heard Baker, , p. Witch hunt is, of course, a term that has been loosely used by virtually anyone faced by a pack of accusers Watson, Analogies have been drawn between the current allegations and the witch craze of the 16th and 17th centuries, when an estimated half million people were convicted of witch-craft and burned to death in Europe alone Harris, ; Trott, b.

Although the denials during the witch craze are now seen as authentic in the light of hindsight, the current denials of those accused of sexual abuse are not proof that the allegations are false. Research with known rapists, pedophiles, and incest offenders has illustrated that they often exhibit a cognitive distortion —a tendency to justify, minimize, or rationalize their behavior Gudjonsson, Because accused persons are motivated to verbally and even mentally deny an abusive past, simple denials cannot constitute cogent evidence that the victim's memories are not authentic.

To say that memory might be false does not mean that the person is deliberately lying. Although lying is always possible, even psychotherapists who question the authenticity of reports have been impressed with the honesty and intensity of the terror, rage, guilt, depression, and overall behavioral dysfunction accompanying the awareness of abuse Ganaway, , p. There are at least two ways that false memories could come about. Honestly believed, but false, memories could come about, according to Ganaway , because of internal or external sources.

The internal drive to manufacture an abuse memory may come about as a way to provide a screen for perhaps more prosaic but, ironically, less tolerable, painful experiences of childhood. Creating a fantasy of abuse with its relatively clear-cut distinction between good and evil may provide the needed logical explanation for confusing experiences and feelings.

The core material for the false memories can be borrowed from the accounts of others who are either known personally or encountered in literature, movies, and television. There are at least two important sources that could potentially feed into the construction of false memories. These include popular writings and therapists' suggestions. The Courage to Heal advertises itself as a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse.

Although the book is undoubtedly a great comfort to the sexual abuse survivors who have been living with their private and painful memories, one cannot help but wonder about its effects on those who have no such memories. Readers who are wondering whether they might be victims of child sexual abuse are provided with a list of possible activities ranging from the relatively bening e. Readers are then told "If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did" p.

On the next page, the reader is told You may think you don't have memories, but often as you begin to talk about what you do remember, there emerges a constellation of feelings, reactions and recollections that add up to substantial information.

To say, "I was abused," you don't need the kind of recall that would stand up in a court of law. Often the knowledge that you were abused starts with a tiny feeling, an intuition Assume your feelings are valid.

So far, no one we've talked to thought she might have been abused, and then later discovered that she hadn't been. The progression always goes the other way, from suspicion to confirmation. If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were. The authors list low self-esteem, suicidal or self-destructive thoughts, depression, and sexual dysfunction, among others. Others have worried about the role played by The Courage to Heal.

In all fairness, however, it should be mentioned that the book is long pages , and sentences taken out of context may distort their intended meaning. Nonetheless, readers without any abuse memories of their own cannot escape the message that there is a strong likelihood that abuse occurred even in the absence of such memories.

The recent incest book industry has published not only stories of abuse but also suggestions to readers that they were likely abused even if there are no memories, that repressed memories of abuse undoubtedly underlie one's troubles, or that benefits derive from uncovering repressed memories and believing them.

Sue Blume , the book jacket of which itemizes one of the author's chief credentials as the "Creator of the Incest Survivors' Aftereffects Checklist. She goes on to say that "Indeed, so few incest survivors in my experience have identified themselves as abused in the beginning of therapy that I have concluded that perhaps half of all incest survivors do not remember that the abuse occurred" p. Some of the volumes provide exercises to help readers lift the repression. Farmer , for example, tells readers to try one particular exercise "whether or not you have any conscious recollection of the abuse you suffered" p.

The reader is to sit down, relax, and mentally return to childhood. The next step is to choose a particular memory, whether fuzzy or clear, and "bring that memory to your full attention" p. Details about what to do with the memory are provided, along with an example from the life of "Danielle," who thought about how verbally abusive her father had been, and "Hazel," who remembered anger at her mother's treating her like a rag doll.

This exercise allegedly helped to "lift the lid of repression" and unbury the "Hurting Child. Do these examples lift the lid of repression? But another equally viable hypothesis is that the examples influence the creation of memories or, at the very least, direct the search through memory that the reader will ultimately take.

Blume's observation that so many individuals enter therapy without memories of abuse but acquire memories during therapy naturally makes one wonder about what might be happening in therapy.

According to Ganaway , honestly believed but false memories could come about in another way, through unintentional suggestion from therapists. Ganaway noted a growing trend toward the facile acceptance and expressed validation of uncorroborated trauma memories, perhaps in part due to sensitization from years of accusations that the memories are purely fantasy. Whereas an earlier generation of therapists might have been discounting or minimizing their patients' traumatic experiences, the recent rediscovery of psychological trauma has let to errors of the opposite kind.

Some contemporary therapists have been known to tell patients, merely on the basis of a suggestive history or symptom profile, that they definitely had a traumatic experience.

Even if there is no memory, but merely some vague symptoms, certain therapists will inform a patient after a single session that he or she was very likely the victim of a satanic cult.

Once the "diagnosis" is made, the therapist urges the patient to pursue the recalcitrant memories. Although some therapists recommend against persistent, intrusive probing to uncover early traumatic memories e.

Evidence for this claim comes in a variety of forms: And I wonder if anything like that ever happened to you? Other clinicians claim to know of therapists who say "Your symptoms sound like you've been abused when you were a child. What can you tell me about that? Tell me what that bastard did to you" Davis, , p.

At least one clinician advocated "It is crucial The rationale for this prescription is that a clinician who asks conveys to the client that the client will be believed and that the clinician will join with the client in working through the memories and emotions linked with childhood sexual abuse.

Asking about sexual abuse along with a list of other past life events makes sense given the high instance of actual abuse, but the concern is how the issue is raised and what therapists do when clients initially deny an abusive past.

Evidence exists that some therapists do not take no for an answer. She went on to provide the example of a client who suspected sexual abuse but had no memories. The client had become extremely anxious at a social gathering in the presence of a three-year-old girl. She had no idea why she was upset except that she wanted the little girl to keep her dress down.

When encouraged in therapy to tell a story about what was going to happen to the little girl, the client ultimately related with tears and trembling one of the first memories of her own abuse.

She used the story to "bypass her cognitive inhibitions and express the content of the memory" p. Later she "integrated the awareness that she was indeed the little girl in the story" p. One cannot help but wonder about these mental fantasy exercises in light of known research showing that the simple act of imagination makes an event subjectively more likely e.

Even if the therapist does not encourage the client to guess or tell a story, stories sometimes get told in the form of client dreams. If discussions of incest go on during the day, and day residue gets into the dreams at night, it would not be surprising to see that dreams of incest might result. Poston and Lison described a woman with "repressed memories" of incest who reported a dream about watching a little girl ice skate on a frozen river. In her dream, the woman tried desperately to warn the child that monsters and snakes were making their way through the ice to devour her.

Although frightened, the woman was powerless and could not warn the innocent child. A few days later, the client began remembering incest from her childhood.

Knowing she had "a trusted relationship with a therapist and a survivor's group that would understand and accept her" p. Examples of therapists interpreting dreams as signs of memory of abuse can be found throughout the literature. One clinician described with pride how she communicated to her male patient the basis for her suspicions that he had been abused: Frederickson , who has worked with many incest survivors, has also described in detail her methods of getting patients to remember.

She recommended that the therapist guide the patient "to expand on or explore images that have broken through to the conscious mind, allowing related images of the abuse to surface. The process lets the survivor complete the picture of what happened, using a current image or flash as a jumping-off point" p. She also suggested that the therapist help the patient expand on the images and sensations evoked by dreams "to shed light on or recover our repressed memories" p.

She extolled the virtues of hypnosis to "retrieve buried memories" p. Include your own felt sense of how you think you were abused" p. Even if clinicians are not the first to bring up sexual abuse, they will often reinforce what begins as a mere suspicion.

One client developed the idea that she might have been sexually abused, tried hypnosis to help her recover memories, and obsessed for years. Only after her therapist stated that she believed sexual assault was "indeed possible" and cited nightmares, phobia of men, and other symptoms as evidence did the client come up with some specific memories Schuker, , p.

Before leaving the examples of therapist accounts of what goes on in therapy, it is important to add a word of caution. Sherrill Mulhern, a psychiatric anthropologist, has documented the alarming discrepancies that often exist between therapists' accounts of what they have done in therapy and what is revealed in video- or audiotapes of those same sessions Mulhern, If memories are uncovered—whether after repeated probing, after telling stories, after dreams, or seemingly spontaneously—or even if the memories remain buried, therapists often send their clients to support groups.

One group, Survivors of Incest Anonymous SIA , publishes extensive reading materials intended to aid the recovery of incest survivors. The criteria for admission make it clear that entry is fine for those with no memories of sexual abuse: These and other questions e. Do you feel easily intimidated by authority figures?

Although support groups are undoubtedly invaluable for genuine survivors of sexual abuse, as they are for other survivors of extreme situations, such as combat and political persecution Herman, , p. Do these groups foster the development of constructed memories? An investigative journalist attending a four-day workshop watched the construction of memory at work Nathan, With members recounting graphic details of SRA abuse, how long will they listen to the person who can only say "I think I was abused, but I don't have any memories.

Another source for suggestions in therapy can be found in client accounts of what happened to them. Recently, clients have been reporting that a therapist has suggested that childhood abuse was the cause of their current distress. However, these clients have no memories of such abuse. One woman from Oregon entered therapy to deal with depression and anxiety, and within a few months her therapist suggested that the cause could be childhood sexual abuse.

She wrote asking for help in remembering: Since that time, he has become more and more certain of his diagnosis I have no direct memories of this abuse The question I can't get past is how something so terrible could have happened to me without me remembering anything. For the past two years I have done little else but try to remember. I've tried self-hypnosis and light trance work with my therapist. And I even travelled to childhood homes Attorney Greg Zimmerman went to a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado, to deal with his father's suicide.

He told ABC, "I would try to talk to her about the things that were very painful in my life and she kept saying that there was something else" p. Zimmerman grew more and more depressed as the mystery of that "something else" would not unravel, and then, during a therapy session, his therapist stunned him with her diagnosis: Zimmerman had said nothing whatsoever to her to provoke this diagnosis, apparently her standard.

It is easy to find published accounts that describe the emergence of memories in therapy and the techniques that therapists have used to uncover those memories e.

One account, written under the pseudonym of Jill Morgan, told of a series of positively horrifying memories of abuse by her father. He raped her when she was 4 years old, again at age 9, once again at age 13, for seven straight days and nights at age 15, and for the final time at age For the next several years, all misery was withheld from conscious memory, and then, at age 29, she was helped to remember in therapy: The involvement of hypnosis and age regression prompts the natural inquiry into whether these techniques produce authentic memories.

Unfortunately, the evidence is discouraging: There is an extensive literature seriously questioning the reliability of hypnotically enhanced memory in general Smith, , and hypnotic age regression in particular Nash, Hypnotic attempts to improve memory increase the confidence in what is recalled more than the accuracy Bowers, Even more worrisome is the impossibility of reversing the process; the hypnotically induced memory becomes the person's reality Orne, With hypnotic regression, men and women have been known to recall being abducted by aliens aboard exotic spacecraft and other forgotten events Gordon, A more detailed client account is that of Betsy Petersen , as described in an autobiographical account, Dancing With Daddy.

Petersen, a Harvard graduate and accomplished writer, revealed in her first book that she repressed memory of sexual abuse by her father until she was 45 years old. Betsy entered therapy with "Kris" for problems relating to her children, and almost a year after starting therapy she started worrying, "I'm afraid my father did something to me.

When she told her therapist about this, she said "I don't know if I made it up or if it's real. Kris told her, in Betsy's words, "It was consistent with what I remembered about my father and my relationship with him, and with the dreams I had been having, and with the difficulties I had being close to my children, and also, she said, with the feelings I had during and after sex with my husband" p.

Betsy worked hard to retrieve incest memories: I put all my skill—as a reporter, novelist, scholar—to work making that reconstruction as accurate and vivid as possible. I used the memories I had to get to the memories I didn't have" p. The therapist convinces the patient with no memories that abuse is likely, and the patient obligingly uses reconstructive strategies to generate memories that would support that conviction.

In addition to the first-person accounts, more formal studies of incest survivors provide clues to what might be happening in therapy. The primary focus of their therapy was "the uncovering of memories" p. The majority participated in step programs e. These groups provided substitute families for the clients who had severed ties with their families of origin. Other similar studies of ritualistic abuse rememberers have revealed that most of the victims have no memory of the abuse before therapy e.

Information gathered during litigation is another source of knowledge about the emergence of memories in therapy. Take the case of Patti Barton against her father, John Peters, a successful businessman.

Peters reveal that Patti Barton began therapy with a Dr. CD, a doctor of divinity, in July CD's notes indicate that, during the 32nd session of therapy, Patti expressed "fear her father has sexually tampered with her" Deposition of CD, April 21, , Barton v. This was the first time that anything like that had come up in any of the sessions. Shortly thereafter, Patti related a dream that a man was after her. CD apparently then used the technique of visualization wherein Patti would try to visualize her past.

He got her to remember eye surgery at the age of 7 months. As for the abuse, one of the earliest acts of abuse he managed to dredge up with this method occurred when Patti was 15 months old. After he stuck his tongue in my mouth—Well, it seemed to last for hours and hours even though I know it didn't. But it was awful to me and an event that seemed to last for hours.

I started crying, and I crawled over to the wall. And I started banging my head on the wall. And my mother came into the room, and she picked me up. And I tried to tell her in baby talk what had happened. Deposition of PB, May , Barton v.

Later, Patti would remember that her father touched her in her crotch and put his penis in her mouth when she was three years old, and that she stroked his penis over and over at age four.

Rape would come later. Patti's father eventually agreed to give his daughter the deed to a piece of land he owned, but he continued to deny the charges. Her brother, a Baptist minister in Alaska, claimed that Satan's wicked spirits planted untruths in Patti's head Laker, Did it take some sessions for the therapist to uncover actual memories of abuse, or some sessions for false memories of abuse to begin to be visualized and constructed?

Often, confidentiality considerations prevent access to interactions between therapists and clients. However, when cases get into litigation, special interviewing is frequently done, and occasionally it is recorded.

Recordings were done in a case implicating a man named Paul Ingram from Olympia, Washington Watters, Ingram was arrested for child abuse in , amid expressions of shock from his community. At the time he was chair of the county Republican committee and was chief civil deputy in the sheriff's office. He had worked in law enforcement for more than a decade.

The Ingram case began at a time when waves of rumor and media hype over satanic ritualistic abuse were rampant. At first Ingram denied everything, and detectives told him he was in denial. With the help of a psychologist who exerted enormous pressure over endless hours of interrogation, Ingram's memories of abusing his daughter began to appear.

Then the psychologist, with the help of a detective, "interviewed" Ingram's son. In that interview, the son reported on his dreams, and the therapist and detective convinced him that the dreams were real. In another case, a father Mr. K hired a private investigator after his year-old daughter reported a recently uncovered repressed memory and accused him of incest. The investigator, acting under cover, went to see the daughter's therapist complaining that she had night-mares and had trouble sleeping.

On the third visit, the therapist told undercover agent that she was an incest survivor. According to the investigator's report Monesi, , the therapist said this to her pseudopatient: I could not remember because my brain had blocked the memory that was too painful to deal with. After that there was the Courage to Heal Work-book, which tells survivors how to cope with the fears and memories. She pulled Secret Survivors by E.

Blume from the shelf, opened the cover, and read the list of symptoms of incest survivors. With two thirds of the symptoms, she would look at the pseudopatient and shake her head yes as if this was confirmation of her diagnosis. She recommended incest survivor groups. In the fourth session, the diagnosis of probable incest victim was confirmed on the basis of the "classic symptoms" of body memory and sleep disorders.

When the patient insisted that she had no memory of such events, the therapist assured her this was often the case. Therapists routinely dig deliberately into the ugly underbelly of mental life.

They dig for memories purposefully because they believe that in order to get well, to become survivors rather than victims, their clients must overcome the protective denial that was used to tolerate the abuse during childhood Sgroi, , p. Memory blocks can be protective in many ways, but they come at a cost; they cut off the survivors from a significant part of their past histories and leave them without good explanations for their negative self-image, low self-esteem, and other mental problems.

These memories must be brought into consciousness, not as an end in itself but only insofar as it helps the survivors acknowledge reality and overcome denial processes that are now dysfunctional p. People in general, therapists included, have a tendency to search for evidence that confirms their hunches rather than search for evidence that disconfirms. It is not easy to discard long-held or cherished beliefs, in part because we are eager to verify those beliefs and are not inclined to seek evidence that might disprove them.

The notion that the beliefs that individuals hold can create their own social reality is the essence of the self-fulfilling prophecy Snyder, How does "reality" get constructed? One way this can happen is through interview strategies. Interviewers are known to choose questions that inquire about behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic, rather than those thought to be uncharacteristic, of some particular classification.

If therapists ask questions that tend to elicit behaviors and experiences thought to be characteristic of someone who had been a victim of childhood trauma, might they too be creating this social reality? Whatever the good intentions of therapists, the documented examples of rampant suggestion should force us to at least ponder whether some therapists might be suggesting illusory memories to their clients rather than unlocking authentic distant memories.

Or, paraphrasing Gardner , what is considered to be present in the client's unconscious mind might actually be present solely in the therapist's conscious mind p. Ganaway worried that, once seeded by the therapist, false memories could develop that replace previously unsatisfactory internal explanations for intolerable but more prosaic childhood trauma. The hypothesis that false memories could be created invites an inquiry into the important question of what is known about false memories.

Since the mids at least, investigations have been done into the creation of false memories through exposure to misinformation. Now, nearly two decades later, there are hundreds of studies to support a high degree of memory distortion. This growing body of research shows that new, postevent information often becomes incorporated into memory, supplementing and altering a person's recollection.

The new information invades us, like a Trojan horse, precisely because we do not detect its influence. Understanding how we can become tricked by revised data about our past is central to understanding the hypothesis that suggestions from popular writings and therapy sessions can affect autobiographical recall. There is no evidence, the critics allege, that one can tinker with memories of real traumatic events or that one can inject into the human mind whole events that never happened.

There are some who argue that traumatic events leave some sort of indelible fixation in the mind e. These assertions fail to recognize known examples and evidence that memory is malleable even for life's most traumatic experiences. If Eileen Franklin's memory of witnessing her father murder her eight-year-old best friend is a real memory, then it too is a memory replete with changes over different tellings. However, there are clearer examples—anecdotal reports in which definite evidence exists that the traumatic event itself was actually experienced and yet the memory radically changed.

Baseball aficionados may recall that Jack Hamilton, then a pitcher with the California Angels, crushed the outfielder, Tony Conigliaro, in the face with a first-pitch fastball. Although Hamilton thought he remembered this horrible event perfectly, he misremembered it as occurring during a day game, when it was actually at night, and misremembered it in other critical ways. Another example will be appreciated by history buffs, particularly those with an interest in the second world war.

American Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe recalled the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor one way in a memoir and completely differently in an oral history taken on his retirement. Both accounts, in fact, were riddled with errors Weintraub, Evidence of a less anecdotal, more experimental nature supports the imperfections of personally experienced traumatic memories.

Subjects were questioned on the morning after the explosion and again nearly three years later. Most described their memories as vivid, but none of them were entirely correct, and more than one third were wildly inaccurate.

One subject, for example, was on the telephone having a business discussion when her best friend interrupted the call with the news. Later she would remember that she heard the news in class and at first thought it was a joke, and that she later walked into a TV lounge and saw the news, and then reacted to the disaster. Another study Abhold, demonstrated the malleability of memory for a serious life-and-death situation.

The subjects had attended an important high school football game at which a player on the field went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics tried to resuscitate the player and apparently failed. The audience reactions ranged from complete silence, to sobbing, to screaming.

Ultimately, fortunately, the player was revived at the hospital. Six years later, many of these people were interviewed. Errors of recollection were common. Moreover, when exposed to misleading information about this life-and-death event, many individuals absorbed the misinformation into their recollections.

For example, more than one fourth of the subjects were persuaded that they had seen blood on the player's jersey after receiving a false suggestion to this effect. These anecdotes and experimental examples suggest that even details of genuinely experienced traumatic events are, as Christianson put it, "by no means, completely accurate" p. It is one thing to discover that memory for an actual traumatic event is changed over time but quite another to show that one can inject a whole event into someone's mind for something that never happened.

There are numerous anecdotes and experimental studies that show it is indeed possible to lead people to construct entire events.

The false memories were with him for at least a decade. The memory was of an attempted kidnapping that occurred when he was an infant. He found out it was false when his nanny confessed years later that she had made up the entire story and felt guilty about keeping the watch she had received as a reward. In explaining this false memory, Piaget assumed, "I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual memory.

Although widely disseminated and impressive at first glance, Piaget's false memory is still but a single anecdote and subject to other interpretations.

Was this really a memory, or an interesting story? Could it be that the assault actually happened and the nurse, for some inexplicable reason, lied later? For these reasons it would be nice to find stronger evidence that a false memory for a complete event was genuinely implanted. An apparently genuine 19th-century memory implantation was reported by Laurence and Perry Bernheim, during hypnosis, suggested to a female subject that she had awakened four times during the previous night to go to the toilet and had fallen on her nose on the fourth occasion.

After hypnosis, the woman insisted that the suggested events had actually occurred, despite the hypnotist's insistence that she had dreamed them. Impressed by Bernheim's success, and by explorations by Orne , Laurence and Perry asked 27 highly hypnotizable individuals during hypnosis to choose a night from the previous week and to describe their activities during the half hour before going to sleep.

The subjects were then instructed to relive that night, and a suggestion was implanted that they had heard some loud noises and had awakened. Almost one half 13 of the 27 subjects accepted the suggestion and stated after hypnosis that the suggested event had actually taken place. Of the 13, 6 were unequivocal in their certainty. The remainder came to the conclusion on basis of reconstruction.

Even when told that the hypnotist had actually suggested the noises, these subjects still maintained that the noises had occurred. One said "I'm pretty certain I heard them.

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty damned certain. The paradigm of inducing pseudomemories of being awakened by loud noises has now been used extensively by other researchers who readily replicate the basic findings. Moreover, the pseudomemories are not limited to hypnotic conditions.

Other evidence shows that people can be tricked into believing that they experienced an event even in the absence of specific hypnotic suggestions. One interpretation of these findings is that people fill in the gaps in their memory with socially desirable constructions, thus creating for themselves a false memory of voting.

In other studies, people have been led to believe that they witnessed assaultive behavior when in fact they did not e. In this study, children aged four to seven years were led to believe that they saw a man hit a girl, when he had not, after hearing the girl lie about the assault. Not only did they misrecall the nonexistent hitting, but they added their own details: Of 41 false claims, 39 children said it happened near a pond, 1 said it was at the girl's house, and 1 could not specify exactly where the girl was when the man hit her.

People can hold completely false memories for something far more traumatic than awakening at night, voting in a particular election, or a simulation involving a man and a girl. Pynoos and Nader studied children's recollections of a sniper attack at an elementary school playground. Some of the children who were interviewed were not at the school during the shooting, including some who were already on the way home or were on vacation.

Yet, even the nonwitnesses had memories: One girl initially said that she was at the school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began.

In truth she was not only out of the line of fire, she was half a block away. A boy who had been away on vacation said that he had been on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the shots, and then turned back. In actuality, a police barricade prevented anyone from approaching the block around the school. The memories apparently were created by exposure to the stories of those who truly experienced the trauma. A question arises as to whether one could experimentally implant memories for nonexistent events that, if they had occurred, would have been traumatic.

Given the need to protect human subjects, devising a means of accomplishing this was not an easy task. Loftus and Coan in press , however, developed a paradigm for instilling a specific childhood memory for being lost on a particular occasion at the age of five. They chose getting lost because it is clearly a great fear of both parents and children. Their initial observations show how subjects can be readily induced to believe this kind of false memory.

Studies have shown that, when material is learned under the influence of a drug or Recall effectively returns a memory from long-term storage to short-term or . not originally recall without a cue, and which were thought to be lost to memory. a young English girl with an IQ of who had a perfect photographic memory. Consequently, in the process of outlining the influence of gender differences on various Information in long-term memory takes a variety of forms. Tulving. Why the brain dredges up old memories without your explicit Months ago, I made friends with a woman who looked nothing like Kate but past anxiety or fear—something that you thought was long forgotten Whether the memory the trigger surfaces is positive or negative, the emotional impact is clear.