Seeking a middle ground on the recovered memories controversy

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It is argued the recovered memories controversy revolves around two basic issues; those concerned with the concept of repression, and those concerned with the fallibility of memory. Clinical and experimental data speaking to each issue are reviewed. The associated issue of infantile amnesia is also briefly examined. An examination of relevant data suggests the human cognitive system is capable of repression. However, difficulties inherent in any attempt to experimentally verify the sequelae of trauma appear to preclude the laboratory recreation of this phenomenon. Extant research also indicates memory for witnessed events is subject to a host of distorting influences. Nevertheless, this literature is deemed to be only tangentially relevant to a debate which is generally concerned with autobiographical events. Shifting focus onto the literature on autobiographical memory (AM) reveals that, although also subjects to distorting influences, AM can under certain conditions be remarkably durable, accurate, and even resistant to suggestion. Overall, it is concluded the adoption of extreme positions with regard to this controversy is not supported by available data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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