Recovered and false memories
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Recovered and False Memories. Recovered and False Memories. Recovered and False Memories 2 sides to the debate:.

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Recovered and False Memories

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Recovered and false memories

Recovered and False Memories


Recovered and false memories1

Recovered and False Memories


Recovered and false memories 2 sides to the debate

Recovered and False Memories2 sides to the debate:

  • Evidence that memories can be repressed and later recovered. Is it possible for people to have experienced traumatic events, for which they have no conscious recollection for years, then recall them through therapy?

  • Evidence that false memories can be implanted. Can a person have a false memory implanted which becomes as strong as a real memory?

    N.B. 10 mark debate questions = very popular on this topic – make sure you describe & discuss BOTH sides of the debate, as well as refer to ethical, theoretical and legal implications of the issue.


1 repression

(1) Repression

  • Repressionis a Freudian ‘defence mechanism’

  • Memories are kept in the unconscious if they are too traumatic or emotionally upsetting to be in our conscious thought.

  • They can affect our behaviour in later life.

  • Freud believed many of his female patients who has psychoanalysis were suffering neuroses due to repression of childhood sexual encounters.

  • A Recovered memory – is the emergence of an apparent recollection from childhood of which we had no previous knowledge. Often linked to memories of child sexual abuse.


1 evidence for repression

Levinger & Clark (1961)

Aim to investigate repression.

Method – participants learnt associated word list with negative & neutral words.

Results – participants took longer to remember word associated with negative terms

Conclusion – supports idea that negative thoughts are buried in the unconscious

Williams (1994)

Aim – to investigate repression

Method - Case study of 129 women who had been abused between ages 10mnths to 12 years old. Interviewed 17 years later at ages 18-31.

Results - 31% failed to report their abuse although it was known by medical authorities.

Conclusion – the women had repressed their traumatic memories.

Evaluation – may have been other reasons for failure to report.

(1) Evidence for Repression


2 false memory

(2) False memory

  • A False memory is the memory of an event which didn’t happen, but which is believed to have happened by the person. This typically involves sexual abuse.

  • False Memory Syndrome – when this memory takes over the life of the individual and has an affect on the other areas of their life.


2 false memory evidence

(2) False memory - evidence

  • Theory is based on the reconstructive nature of memory

  • Evidence – Jean Piaget had an early memory of a kidnap attempt on him, discovered age 15 his nurse had made it up.


2 false memory evidence1

(2) False memory - evidence

Loftus & Ketcham (1994) - Lost in the shopping mall

Aim – to investigate whether false memories can be implanted

Method – small sample of 5 people made to believe they had been lost in a shopping mall when young, with help of parents & family members.

Results – Participants’ memories were uncertain at first, but became stronger.

Conclusion – It is possible to implant false memories

Evaluation – small sample, ethical issues (deception, lack of informed consent), can’t generalise from this to cases of abuse.


2 false memory evidence2

(2) False memory - evidence

Video clip of Elizabeth Loftus discussing the Mall experiment


Recovered and false memories ethical legal implications of the debate

Recovered and False Memoriesethical & legal implications of the debate:

  • Ethical Implications:

  • Accusations made against family members

  • Legal proceedings & retractions

  • Self-help & pressure groups

  • British False Memory Society (BFMS)

  • Features of accusations:

  • Consequences of accusations:


Recovered and false memories theoretical implications of the debate

Recovered and False Memoriestheoretical implications of the debate:

  • Frankland & Cohen (1999) proposed a set of draft guidelines:

  • Stress that there is no doubt that child sexual abuse does exist and that some cases of recovered memory are recollections of events that have really happened.

  • State that psychologists should avoid actively seeking for memories of abuse and be alert to the dangers of suggestion.

  • State that memories may be “literally/historically true or false, or may be partly true, thematically true, or metaphorically true, or may derive from fantasy or dream material.”


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