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The Validity of Recovered Memories - Research Paper Example

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The Validity of Recovered Memories University Name March 26, 2011 Abstract Recovered memories are those that have been forgotten for a period of time and then recalled, usually with the assistance of a therapist. Research indicates that memory in general and recovered memories in particular are malleable and prone to changing based on external stimuli…
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Download file to see previous pages However, the validity of such memories is often called into question. The argument over such memories is one of the most contested positions in psychology, sometimes even referred to as the “memory wars” (Campbell, 2003). Many researchers claim that these memories are false, even implanted by incompetent therapists, while therapists most often stand behind the claims of their patients. Looking into the controversy surrounding recovered memories versus false memories, the process of memory repression, and some of the implications brings us to a realization of just how widespread and important this debate can be. Recovered Memories vs False Memories Individuals who recovered memories in therapy and with the help of a therapist were often unsurprised to recover memories of childhood sexual abuse. However, spontaneously recovered memories often surprised those who gained these memories. More tellingly, spontaneously recovered memories and continuous memories, those that were never repressed and therefore never had to be recovered, were much more likely to be corroborated by physical evidence than memories recovered in therapy (Geraerts et al., 2007). This could indicate that the presence of the therapist pushed people into “recalling” situations of sexual abuse that never occurred because the therapist expected to find such memories. In opposition to the situation of coaxed-out memory under the control of a therapist for the first time since the event occurred, people who report such spontaneous memory recovery may actually have “recovered” and then forgotten the same memory numerous time. This does not invalidate the correctness of the memory; however, such repeated incidences of forgetting and remembering does indicate the possibility that the memory was never truly repressed under the same system that would be used for completely repressed memories that require a therapist's assistance to recover (Geraerts et al., 2009). Research shows that memories of terrible events, including being the one to commit terrible crimes, can be created in the subject's mind from nothing, and researchers tend to believe that recovered memories are generally of this type. Therapists, however, are more inclined to believe that such vivid memories cannot be created wholesale and instead that recovered memories are memories of true events; they may understand the existence of false recovered memories but believe that the incidence is much lower than a researcher may believe (Davis & Loftus, 2009). Memories of events can also be altered or distorted by such experiences as leading questions, suggestions, and incorrect conversations with other witnesses of the same scene. Especially telling for the possibility of recovered memories involving childhood sexual abuse in research results is the possibility of remembering accomplices who weren't present during the original scenes. An additional research study on recovered memories resulted in up to one-quarter of the subjects believing that they had been lost in the mall as small children, when that event was presented as part of a series of actual events. This was only done on subjects whose parents stated that such an event had never occurred, so there was little possibility of confusing an actual childhood memory with the memory created as part of the research (Laney & ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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