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Unread August 12th, 2004, 06:16 AM
loftus75 loftus75 is offline
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Default Recovered memory

For some years now the debate relating to recovered memory has been raging between various groups, both on a professional and non-professional level. On one side we have those that would argue memories are reliable indicators of a persons past experience, on the other side we have the argument that memory is a construct which is susceptible to corruption. From my own daily experience, I am aware that when revisiting places from my childhood, much of what I thought constructed a view, a building or a route is often not as I remember it. On a professional level I recall the experiments I carried out while at university which illustrated the ease in which memory could be corrupted.

From a cognitive stance, I would be interested to hear what other professional's make of this debate.

I should, declare my own position on this. I share Elizabeth Loftus's view, that memories are not reliable, yet we continue to give eye witnesses in our courts quite a lot of weight and many members of the general public do believe that repressed memories can be recovered, and that these memories are in fact valid.

Questions that arise from this debate, such as, when a patient reports they have been to a therapist that practices RMT, (Recovered Memory Therapy), and as result have recovered a memory of being abused as a child. Or when a client reports they have recurring dreams of their childhood which show them in some frightening situation. Just how much credence do others working in CT give to the reported memory or dream?

Again I should declare that I would be more inclined to look at reasons for disturbed sleep in the case of dreams, and I would be sceptical of any recovered memory, though I would not necessarily completely discount it.

I have heard arguments that say it really isn't important whether the memory is accurate, it's the clients view of their own reality that matters. Fine, except there are very real consequences for families in these events. Besides this, how sure can we be that it is the clients memory and not a product of suggestion?

Finally I should say, I'm not trying to light any fires here, I am interested in a debate not a professional fight I say this because I know that this subject can create a lot of heat. I also believe this debate effects everyone working in the mental health field as we rely heavily on self reporting and our clients memory of events, whether we are looking at phobia's, stress or any other dysfunctional behaviour, the reliability of their statements is vital to the direction and outcomes of the therapeutic processes.
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