Recovered Memories: Seeking the Middle Ground

Recovered Memories: Seeking the Middle Ground

Recovered Memories: Seeking the Middle Ground

Recovered Memories: Seeking the Middle Ground


The phenomenon of recovered memories has excited much controversy in recent years amongst professionals with extreme positions being held: either all such memories are, by definition false, or any such claim is an attempt to deny the victims of abuse their rights to confront their abusers. In this refreshing new approach to the problem Graham Davies and Tim Dalgleish have assembled leading figures from both sides of the debate to provide a balanced overview of empirical evidence as well as evidence from clinical practice.

Recovered Memories: Seeking the middle ground, unlike most other writing on the topic, eschews extreme positions. It provides clinicians with findings from the latest research to enhance their understanding of memory and presents pure researchers with a range of experiences encountered in clinical practice for which they presently have few explanations. Topics include the impact on family and community members, the latest findings on implanted memories and discussion of clinical guidelines for therapeutic practice to avoid potential influence on memory. Having weighed the evidence, a framework is offered in which true and false recovered memories are seen as the inevitable compliment of true and false continuous memories.

This important new collection should not be missed by anyone with an interest in memory, whether engaged in a clinical, legal, child protection, family welfare or experimental research capacity. It is the most authoritative and comprehensive review of the evidence on both sides available to date.


Recovered memories refers to the recall of traumatic events, typically of sexual abuse in childhood, by adults who have exhibited little or no previous awareness of such experiences. The controversy over the reliability and veracity of such memories has not only split families, but also the psychological profession. The debate has continued, as much in the sober pages of scientific and professional journals, as in the public arenas of press, television and popular books. In the 1980s, this debate was characterised by proponents taking up extreme positions: either all such memories were, by definition, inevitably false or, alternatively, any move to question such memories was a cynical attempt to deny victims their belated right to confront their abusers. By the mid-1990s, the terms of the debate began to change. The controversy remained fierce and the issues for its victims just as real, but it was now more reasoned, assisted by the availability of more and better research evidence. This seemed an appropriate moment for a book which would draw together the researchers and professionals in an attempt to look at the evidence from a balanced perspective. Recovered Memories: Seeking the Middle Ground is the result.

If the terms of the debate have changed, recovered memories continue to be the cause of much stress and dissent for patients, families and their therapists. By 1996, the American-based False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF), founded by a couple who believed themselves wrongly accused by their daughter of sexual abuse, had received over 7,000 enquiries and reported that there were some 700 repressed memory suits at trial level and a further 200 had reached the appeal stage (Johnston, 1997). FMSF has inspired similar organisations in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The anguished parents and carers who contact such organisations complain that they are the victims of memories, which are not true fragments of the past, but rather . . .

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