Repressed Childhood Memories or False Memory Syndrome

My descriptive subject will focus on the rising alarm of reports of cases of child sexual abuse that cannot be documented and have questioned the validity of a number of memories of sexual abuse.

The areas that will give spotlight too will include the human memory and its multifaceted progressions. We program and encode information in an interesting way such as in audio/ sound form that travels to our short term memory bank. All these memories may cause distortion due to evoking memories that may have taken place in a dream or it simply did not happen at all. A more precise definition of false memory will be shown. How the four stages of memory such as, encoding, retrieval, storage, and recounting processes apply to false/distorted memories?

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Afterward, the paper will take account of experimentations that have been done on the function of encoding based and retrieval based causes in regards to false memory recognition.

The paper will also encompass how memories can be drastically predisposed and influenced by either authority figures, therapists, or by a family member. Eventually, the term repressed memories will come to light in the paper. It will be significant to explain what repressed memories are and how it arrives to ones mind. This will help the reader to understand the correlation between false memories and simply memories. Controversial debates will be brought the issue from one extreme to the other. How one believes that repressed memories are counted for vs. repressed memories is implanted. Ramifications of memory distortion and false memories will be added. Several research and clinical psychologists have raised grave concerns that these activities are fostering the creation of false beliefs and memories that implicate innocent people.

Prior to expanding on what is false memory, I believe it is vital to shed some light on working memory and cognitive psychology. The single most central part of growth in cognitive theorization is the segment of memory, which is divided into encoding, storage, and retrieval. It is a scientific system unlike phenomenological methods such as Freud’s theories. Cognitive psychology is more intoned with calculation and demonstration of thinking with scientific outputs.

Let us delve into, what is working memory? Working memory is sort of like a border perimeter, division of the human memory scheme, which unites transitory storage compartment and operations of information to facilitate understanding through interpretation, instinct, and perception.

Following, what is short term memory? Short term memory represents an information cubicle that has not been touched by any sort of manipulation thus far.

What is long term memory? Long term memory is different from short term memory and working memory. Information that is stored in the short term memory bank may flow into the long term memory division with rehearsal and consequential association processes. Scientists claim that “process of long-term potentiation, which involves a physical change in the structure of neurons, has been proposed as the mechanism by which short-term memories move into long-term storage” (Peterson, 1959).

Repressed Childhood Memories or False Memory Syndrome?

It’s time to reflect on how false memory creeps up in adults? Some adults who recover veiled memories of child sexual abuse are said to be associated with false memory syndrome or just simple truth. How does the court system distinguish between false memory syndrome and the truth?

A female may argue, for instance, that her father sexually molested her frequently among the ages of 3 and 6. A man may possibly remember that a family member conducted sexual advances on numerous instances while he was about 14 years old. Frequently repressed memories surface during therapy for another problem, perhaps for an eating disorder or depression. Some experts believe that recovered memories are just what they appear to be-horrible memories of abuse that have been buried for years in the person’s mind. They point out that at least 200,000 to 300,000 children in the US are victims of sexual abuse each year, terrible experiences that may leave the children vulnerable to dissociative amnesia. Studies in fact suggest that 18 to 59 percent of sexual abuse victims have difficulty recalling at lest some details of their traumas. Other experts believe that the memories are actually illusions – false images created by a mind that is confused. I fact, an organization called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation now assists people who claim to be falsely charged with abuse. These theorists note that the details of childhood sexual abuse are usually remembered all too well, not completely wiped from memory. They also point out that memory in general is hardly foolproof. If the alleged recovery of childhood memories is not what it appears to be what is it? According to opponents of the concept, it may be a powerful case of suggestibility. These theorists hold that both the clinical and public attention has led some therapists to make the diagnosis without sufficient evidence. The therapists may actively search for signs of early sexual abuse in clients and even encourage clients to produce repressed memories. Certain therapists in fact use special memory recovery techniques, including hypnosis, regression therapy, journal writhing, dream interpretation, and interpretation of bodily symptoms. Perhaps some clients respond to the techniques by unknowingly forming false memories of abuse. The apparent memories may then become increasingly familiar to them as a result of repeated therapy discussions of the alleged incidents. In short, recovered memories may actually be iatrogenic – unintentionally caused by the therapist. Whatever may be the outcome of the repressed memory debate, the problem of childhood sexual abuse appears to be all too real and all too common.

The Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently issued a statement “in response to the growing concern regarding memories of sexual abuse.” In part, the statement says: It is not known what proportion of adults who report memories of sexual abuse were actually abused. Many individuals who recover memories of abuse have been able to find corroborating information about their memories. However, no such information can be found, or is possible to obtain, in some situations. While aspects of the alleged abuse situation, as well as the context in which the memories emerge, can contribute to the assessment, there is no completely accurate way of determining the validity of reports in the absence of corroborating information. (Statement of the APA Board of Trustees, adopted December 12, 1993)


1). American psychological Association (1994) Interim Report of the APA Working Group on Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse, APA (reprinted in Shepard’s Expert and Scientific Evidence Quarterly, 1994, Vol 2, p 465-467).

The American Psychiatric Association has adopted a concern about memories of sexual abuse and the rise of reports that hold no merit. There has been a concern and puzzlement over the likelihood of false accusations.

2). American Psychiatric Association (1993, December 12) Board of Trustees Statement on memories of sexual abuse.

The statement reveals that a proportion of adults who made testimonies about their child hood sexual abuses have not been able to provide proof.

3). Andrews, B, Morton, J., Bekerian, D.A., Brewin, C.R., Davies, G.M., & Mollon, P. (1995) The recovery of memories in clinical practice. The Psychologist, 8, 209- 214.

The authors discuss that memory recovery materialize as a frequent phenomenon. The position that patients declare are not founded on memories of real occurrences.

4). Arndt, J. (2010). The role of memory activation in creating false memories of encoding context. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(1), 66-79. doi:10.1037/a0017394.

This journal defines present day hypothesis of false memory that advocates two methods in which unites in fabricating false memory. The first one enhances false memory “(error-editing processes) and the second experiment using the DRM paradigm (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) discovered the influence of manipulating the number of associates studied, study item presentation frequency, backward associative strength, and study time on error-inflating and error-editing processes separately by examining speeded and unspeeded recognition decisions”. The outcome of the examinations signified that comprehensive theories of false memory phenomena must propose the existence of two different factors: one that increases false memory and is available early in memory retrieval, and one that usually, but not always, decreases false memory and is available later in retrieval.

5). Arndt, J. (2006). Distinctive information and false recognition: The contribution of encoding and retrieval factors. Journal of Memory and Language, 54(1), 113-130. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2005.08.003.

In this journal review by Arndt, scientists have conducted four experimentations on the function of encoding-based and retrieval-based causes with the assembly in mind of false recognition. The results of the four experimentations recommend

“visual features encountered at encoding can become associated with representations of unstudied items and can lead to inflated levels of false recognition when unstudied items are tested in a visual format experienced at encoding or when participants utilize monitoring processes to search memory for evidence of perceptual information encountered during encoding”.

6). Gallo, D. (2004). Using Recall to Reduce False Recognition: Diagnostic and Disqualifying Monitoring. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30(1), 120-128. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.30.1.120.

In this journal review Gallo, concentrated on reducing false recognition of related lures. Subjects were utilized with instructions given such as; following standard test directions and or following the usage of recalling to reduce false recognition. Results indicated “exhaustively recalling a category allowed subjects to disqualify the lure as having occurred, analogous to recall-to-reject demonstrations in other tasks.

7). Gordon, Barry (1995, July 13) Review of The Myth of Repressed Memory. The New England Journal of Medicine, p 133-134.

Repressed memory is described as distinct from forgotten memory, or from avoided memory. It is also distinct from any known form of amnesia. Repressed memory, as used by both “believers” and “skeptics,” is memory of a historic fact which has left no trace of its framework available to the conscious mind, to the extent that there isn’t even any consciousness that there is *something* missing.

8). Hicks, J., & Starns, J. (2006). The roles of associative strength and source memorability in the contextualization of false memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 54(1), 39-53. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2005.09.004.

Hicks investigated the force of associative strength and retrieval heuristics in false source memory with final result discovered and demonstrated that “source details of concepts most highly related to critical items are retrieved with false memories”.

9). Jones, T. C., & Jacoby, L. L. (2001). Feature and conjunction errors in recognition memory: Evidence for dual-process theory. Journal of Memory & Language, 45(1), 82-102. doi:10.1006/jmla.2000.2761.

This journal investigated the feature and conjunction errors in recognition memory using a dual-process framework. Scientists have conducted four experiments and found that “feature and conjunction errors are based on familiarity in the absence of recollection”. Investigators have also stated “an approach that combines an item-associative distinction with a dual-process framework (e.g.,Yonelinas, 1997) also can account for these errors”.

10). Rhoades, Geroge F. (1995) Therapeutic precautions to help prevent false memory allegations. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the International Society for the study of Dissociation, Lake Buena Vista, Fl.

Dr. Rhoades explains the risk of working with trauma survivors is the prospect of being sued for implanting false memories. Be sure to document all sessions and do not tell clients that you believe what they are saying is true. Dr. Rhoades gives further precautions for therapist in situations where they are faced with trauma survivors.

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