Repression is one of the most haunting concepts in psychology. Something shocking happens, and the mind pushes it into some inaccessible corner of the unconscious. Later, the memory may emerge into consciousness. Repression is one of the foundation stones on which the structure of psychoanalysis rests. Recently there has been a rise in reported memories of childhood sexual abuse that were allegedly repressed for many years. With recent changes in legislation, people with recently unearthed memories are suing alleged perpetrators for (...) events that happened 20, 30, even 40 or more years earlier. These new developments give rise to a number of questions: (a) How common is it for memories of child abuse to be repressed? (b) How are jurors and judges likely to react to these repressed memory claims? (c) When the memories surface, what are they like? and (d) How authentic are the memories? (shrink)
In this paper we review the factors alleged to be responsible for the creation of inaccurate reports among preschool-aged children, focusing on so-called "source misattribution errors." We present the first round of results from an ongoing program of research that suggests that source misattributions could be a powerful mechanism underlying children′s false beliefs about having experienced fictitious events. Preliminary findings from this program of research indicate that all children of all ages are equally susceptible to making source misattributions. Data from (...) a follow-up wave of data indicate that very young children may be disproportionately vulnerable to these kinds of errors when the procedure is changed slightly to create mental images more easily. This vulnerability leads younger preschoolers, on occasion, to claim that they actually experienced events that they only thought about. These preliminary findings are discussed in the context of the ongoing debate over the veracity and durability of delayed reports of early memories, repressed memories, dissociative states, and the validity risks posed by therapeutic techniques that entail repeated visually guided imagery inductions. (shrink)
Marketers use autobiographical advertising as a means to create nostalgia for their products. This research explores whether such referencing can cause people to believe that they had experiences as children that are mentioned in the ads. In Experiment 1, participants viewed an ad for Disney that suggested that they shook hands with Mickey Mouse as a child. Relative to controls, the ad increased their conﬁdence that they personally had shaken hands with Mickey as a child at a Disney resort. The (...) increased conﬁdence could be due to a revival of a true memory or the creation of a new, false one. In Experiment 2, participants viewed an ad for Disney that suggested that they shook hands with an impossible character (e.g., Bugs Bunny). Again, relative to controls, the ad increased conﬁdence that they personally had shaken hands with the impossible character as a child at a Disney resort. The increased conﬁdence is consistent with the notion that autobiographical referencing can lead to the creation of false or distorted memory. ᭧ 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (shrink)
Counterfactual imaginings are known to have far reaching implications. In the present experiment, we ask if imagining events from one's past can affect memory for childhood events. We draw on the social psychology literature showing that imagining a future event increases the subjective likelihood that the event will occur. The concepts of cognitive availability and the source monitoring framework provide reasons to expect that imagination may inflate confidence that a childhood event occurred. However, people routinely produce myriad counterfactual imaginings (i.e., (...) daydreams and fantasies) but usually do not confuse them with past experiences. To determine the effects of imagining a childhood event, we pretested subjects on how confident they were that a number of childhood events had happened, asked them to imagine some of those events, and then gathered new confidence measures. For each of the target items, imagination inflated confidence that the event had occurred in childhood. We discuss implications for situations in which imagination is used as an aid in searching for presumably lost memories. (shrink)
In three experiments, we found that after a subtle suggestion, subjects falsely recognized words from their own dreams and thought they had been presented during the waking state. The procedure used in these studies involved three phases. Subjects studied a list of words on Day 1. On Day 2, they received a false suggestion that some words from their previously reported dreams had been presented on the list. On Day 3, they tried to recall only what had occurred on the (...) initial list. Subjects falsely recognized their dream words at a very high rate—sometimes as often as they accurately recognized true words. They reported that they genuinely “remembered” the dream words, as opposed to simply “knowing” that they had been previously presented. These findings, which suggest that dreams can sometimes be mistaken for reality, have significant implications for the practice of psychotherapy. (shrink)
Case histories make contributions to science and practice, but they can also be highly misleading. We illustrate with our reexamination of the case of Jane Doe; she was videotaped twice, once when she was six years old and then eleven years later when she was seventeen. During the first interview she reported sexual abuse by her mother. During the second interview she apparently forgot and then remembered the sexual abuse. Jane's case has been hailed by some as the new proof (...) of recovery of repressed or dissociated traumatic memories, and even as proof of the reliability of recovered memories of repeated abuse. Numerous pieces of "supporting evidence" were given in the original article for believing that the abuse occurred. Upon closer scrutiny, however, there are reasons to doubt not only the "supporting evidence," but also that the sexual abuse ever happened in the first place. Our analysis raises several general questions about the use of case histories in science, medicine, and mental health. There is a cautionary tale not only for those professionals who advance the case history, but also for those who base their theories on it or would readily accept it as proof. (shrink)
After hundreds of articles on recovered memory therapy, one might have thought there was not much left to say. But a November 1997 front-page article in the New York Times headlined '"Memory' Therapy Leads to a Lawsuit and Big Settlement" suggested that the repressed memory controversy had broken new records (Belluck 1997).
Two decades of research using repeated false statements and underhanded information have shown that people can easily be made to believe that they have seen or experienced something they never did. In this paper, we discuss the possibility that the mental health professional and client may unknowingly collaborate to create a client′s false memory of childhood sexual abuse. Both therapist and client bring beliefs into therapy, and the confirmation bias shows that people discover what they already believe to be true. (...) What do people believe about memory? We asked 115 students for their reactions to various statements about how memory works; results showed widespread belief in the repression mechanism. A principal components analysis revealed that three larger beliefs explained 61% of the variance in the more specific beliefs: possible sources of memory distortions, memory for traumatic events, and the potential recoverability of memories. Finally, we discuss the ambiguity inherent in the term repression, as well as the generalizability of misinformation research to the repressed and recovered memories. (shrink)