False-Memory Creation in Children and Adults: Theory, Research, and Implications

False-Memory Creation in Children and Adults: Theory, Research, and Implications

False-Memory Creation in Children and Adults: Theory, Research, and Implications

False-Memory Creation in Children and Adults: Theory, Research, and Implications

Synopsis

As one of the most hotly debated topics of the past decade, false memory has attracted the interest of researchers and practitioners in many of psychology's subdisciplines. Real-world issues surrounding the credibility of memories (particularly memories of traumatic events, such as sexual abuse) reported by both children and adults have been at the center of this debate. Were the adults actually retrieving repressed memories under the careful direction of psychotherapists, or were the memories being "created" by repeated suggestion? Were children telling investigators about events that actually happened, or were the interviewing techniques used to get at unpleasant experiences serving to implant memories that eventually became their own? There is evidence in the psychological research literature to support both sides, and the potential impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole has been profound. This book is an attempt to cut through the undergrowth and get at the truth of the "recovered memory/false-memory creation" puzzle. The contributors review seminal work from their own research programs and provide theory and critical evaluation of existing research that is necessary to translate theory into practice. The book will be of great value to basic and applied memory researchers, clinical and social psychologists, and other professionals working within the helping and legal professions.

Excerpt

Memory has always been of interest to psychologists, going back to the days of Ebbinghaus. Research in memory usually followed the prevailing theoretical winds that influenced academic psychology, being conceived in terms of associative stimulus-response connections, the differential accessibility and availability of information in a computer-like system, or a highly constructive process based as much on the previously organized knowledge possessed by the rememberer as on the retrieval of the representation of a specific experience. Because memory is central to all other forms of complex cognition, theorists investigating other aspects of human psychological functioning could not ignore what memory researchers had to say, and they in turn contributed to our understanding of the complexities of human memory.

It is this interface between basic research in memory and how people use memory to solve other types of "problems" that is the focus of this book. Specifically, to what extent can and do children and adults form false memories, particularly when in the context of recalling important personal, and sometimes forensically significant, information? This question became particularly important when, during the latter part of the 1980s through the middle of the 1990s, substantial numbers of adults, usually during the course of psychotherapy, recalled events of sexual abuse from their childhoods. Also at this same time, preschool children, usually during extensive interviews with law enforcement officers or therapists, told of sexual abuse at the hands of day-care providers. These were shocking tales, but initially quite believable, given the details of what people recalled and, in the cases of the preschoolers, the number of children who told similar, horrific stories. But soon many of these claims of childhood abuse began to be questioned. There was rarely corroborating physical evidence, and the extent of the abuse that occurred in the preschools was amazing, given that it happened unnoticed by other care givers and parents. But the adults and children claiming abuse were sincere. If these things actually did happen, why and how were they buried away for so many years? And if they did not . . .

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