“Memory Wars”

“Memory Wars”

Recovered memories have been a topic of controversy for quite some time. It is no secret that there have been wrongful convictions of people based upon false or implanted memories that were supposedly recovered. Because of this, more and more research has been done to further study the validity of repressed memories. One article specifically looks at the idea that trauma can lead to a blockage of autobiographical memories. It discusses the concept of dissociative amnesia, which is argued to be another term for memory repression. This article starts by discussing the term “memory wars”, which refers to this debate between psychologists everywhere regarding repressed memories and whether or not they truly exist. There are many different arguments to this debate, but the main question is of the validity of the concept of repressed memories. Some psychologists believe that due to trauma, people can block out certain memories as a sort of coping mechanism, and therefore, the memories must be retrieved by a professional later on. However, others believe that the idea of repressed memories is dangerous and can easily lead to accidentally implanting false and traumatic memories. Some psychologists believe that in order for someone to heal emotionally, they must have these supposed repressed memories retrieved so that they can work through them in therapy, but those who do not believe in these memories say that it is unethical to put a person in such a position that has the potential to be harmful to them. Furthermore, if repressed memories are indeed true, is it ethical to make someone relieve trauma with no guarantee that it will help them in the long run? These are some of the many questions proposed in this article. Next, this article discusses a laboratory study done by Loftus and Pickrell in 1995. This study looked at how easily false memories can be implanted. They interviewed a group of students and asked them to reflect on four different traumatic events that happened in their childhood. The students were told that these events were provided to them by their own parents; however, one of the four memories was actually false and was confirmed by the parents to never have happened. Loftus and Pickrell found that 25% of the participants claimed that the false event did occur, after it was suggested to them. This study alone suggests that using certain suggestive interviewing techniques can allow for false memories to be implanted fairly easily. All in all, because there is such an issue of ethics in the topic of repressed memories, it is a difficult concept to study. Studies such as Loftus and Pickrell’s allow us to understand this controversy a bit more, but are not able to answer all of our questions. So, what do you think? What are your thoughts regarding the memory wars? Do you feel that repressed memories exist?




One thought on ““Memory Wars”

  1. mhart2402

    As someone who has had repressed memories, I can confirm that they do in fact exist. They’re not pleasant and it’s something that has haunted me throughout my life, but it hasn’t caused me to have any debilitating effects too often. It’s not fun to think about them, and they sure do love to claw their way into my mind at the most unwanted moments, especially when I’m trying to sleep.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s ethical to force these repressed memories to the forefront, but at the same time there’s no real good answer for something like this if medical professionals and therapists will think it’ll help a patient to overcome the traumatic events from their past.

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