False Memory Syndrome

As early as the late 1890s, well-known psychologists Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet had already conceptualized and introduced the theory of blocked and recovered memories of traumatic events (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). During that time, Freud made famous his “Aetiology of Hysteria,” wherein he discussed his novel theory of hysteria being caused by repressed memories of childhood sexual trauma (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). Since then, many theories have been developed and studies and research conducted, which built upon the early theories on repressed memories (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004).

Thus, to this day, almost all disciplines, such as the legal system and the mental health profession, regard blocked or repressed memories of traumatic events as real phenomena (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). The concept of false memories is one of the offshoots of the early theories like Freud’s, and it refers to “experiences that to rememberers seem to be memories of events that took place within experiments, but which do not correspond to experimentally presented stimuli (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004).

” Compared to memory errors, which are often characterized by absence of memory, recognition failure, or retrieval failures, false memories involve the recollection of an event that did not actually occur (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). Thus, in false memory, there is absolute failure for the memories to correspond with reality (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). In the 1990s, the false memory syndrome reached epidemic proportions, and literature on the matter grew, mainly because of stories and personal accounts from people who have allegedly been falsely accused of sexual abuse (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004).

Most of the accounts also came from “recantors,” or those who reported sexual abuse but later on realized or believed that their reports did not actually occur (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). Despite these numerous accounts, there is a dearth of evidence or statistics to support such personal stories and accounts, aside from publication in various literary and scientific journals (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004).

On the other hand, there are some experimental evidence of false memories, coming from research and studies that concluded that “subjects can be made to report remembering events that did not occur (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). ” One example of an experiment that yielded positive results on false memories is the experiment on misinformation effect, whereby the subject is exposed to the original event, and then to intervening events designed to mislead him (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004).

Thereafter, the subject would be given a memory test, which would show that most subjects would remember only the misled or inferred events as real events that actually occurred (Gleaves, Smith, Butler & Spiegel, 2004). These studies and findings lead me to believe that false memory syndrome is a real condition that is characterized by the manipulation of a person’s memory or cognitive processes. The condition compels the person into thinking that something happened, but I do not believe that such act is a deliberate one made to attract attention.

The creation of a false memory is brought about by external factors, such as trauma or improper offer of information, which alters the perception and memory of a person.

Works Cited Gleaves, D. H. , Smith, S. M. , Butler, L. D. & Spiegel, D. (2004). False and Recovered Memories in the Laboratory and Clinic: A Review of Experimental and Clinical Evidence. American Psychological Association D12, 3-28.

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