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The Myth of Repressed Memory
Cover of The Myth of Repressed Memory
The Myth of Repressed Memory
False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
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According to many clinical psychologists, when the mind is forced to endure a horrifying experience, it has the ability to bury the entire memory of it so deeply within the unconscious that it can only be recalled in the form of a flashback triggered by a sight, a smell, or a sound. Indeed, therapists and lawyers have created an industry based on treating and litigating the cases of people who suddenly claim to have "recovered" memories of everything from child abuse to murder.

This book reveals that despite decades of research, there is absolutely no controlled scientific support for the idea that memories of trauma are routinely banished into the unconscious and then reliably recovered years later. Since it is not actually a legitimate psychological phenomenon, the idea of "recovered memory"—and the movement that has developed alongside it—is thus closer to a dangerous fad or trendy witch hunt.

According to many clinical psychologists, when the mind is forced to endure a horrifying experience, it has the ability to bury the entire memory of it so deeply within the unconscious that it can only be recalled in the form of a flashback triggered by a sight, a smell, or a sound. Indeed, therapists and lawyers have created an industry based on treating and litigating the cases of people who suddenly claim to have "recovered" memories of everything from child abuse to murder.

This book reveals that despite decades of research, there is absolutely no controlled scientific support for the idea that memories of trauma are routinely banished into the unconscious and then reliably recovered years later. Since it is not actually a legitimate psychological phenomenon, the idea of "recovered memory"—and the movement that has developed alongside it—is thus closer to a dangerous fad or trendy witch hunt.

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About the Author-
  • Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, is also the author of Witness for the Defense and Eyewitness Testimony.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 29, 1994
    While acknowledging the reality of childhood sexual abuse, Loftus, a research psychologist specializing in memory, believes that in many cases, people create false memories of nonexistent abuse, prompted to do so by their psychotherapists. Writing in the first person with coauthor Ketcham (with whom she wrote Witness for the Defense), Loftus critiques the tools used by some therapists (``trance work,'' hypnosis, dream analysis, journal writing, etc.) to ``recover'' patients' buried memories. She presents numerous case histories involving presumed memories that turned out to be fabrications and reports on a study in which false memories of childhood events were created in men and women volunteers. She also discusses her involvement in the case of Paul Ingram, a Washington deputy sheriff who confessed that he was a priest in a satanic cult and sodomizer of children after his two daughters accused him of sexual abuse; he later retracted his confession but was imprisoned anyway. This eye-opening book makes a compelling argument for caution. Author tour.

  • The New York Review of Books

    "Astute, scientifically informed, and compassionate towards the movement's casualties."

  • The New York Times Book Review "The descriptions [of] the 'therapeutic' practices by which memories are recovered are a frightening indictment of at least some members of the burgeoning industry."
  • The Washington Post Book World "[A] thoughtful, scholarly book . . . concerned with exposing the damage caused by, and the falsity of, the practice of recovered-memory therapy."
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    St. Martin's Publishing Group
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The Myth of Repressed Memory
The Myth of Repressed Memory
False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus
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