Recovered memory Syndrome

Elżbieta Hałas “The Myth of Cultural Integration in International Relations” Conference on 27.08.2014...

As a clinical psychologist with expertise in psychological trauma, including due to child abuse and sexual assault, I have studied traumatic memories, including recovered memories of sexual abuse, for over 20 years.

This section of my site has six pages: an overview and introduction (this page); a page that speaks directly to those with personal questions and concerns about their own memories; one with scientific and scholarly resources; one on how the media deals (mostly poorly) with this issue; and one with additional resources (e.g., books, websites, etc.).

Overview and Introduction

In 1995 I began offering web resources on recovered memories of sexual abuse, primarily to direct people to quality scientific and scholarly work on traumatic and recovered memories, especially:

  1. Research evidence showing that it is not rare for people who were sexually abused in childhood to go for many years, even decades, without having (recognizable or explicit) memories of the abuse. (People almost always have implicit memories of the abuse, that is, memories they did not realize were memories, for example physiological or emotional responses triggered by encountering things associated with the abuse, like being touched in a certain way). This body of work shows that claims to the contrary are contradicted by lots of scientific evidence.
  2. Research and theoretical writings by qualified specialists who agree that: a) traumatic and nontraumatic memories have some different characteristics; b) the construct of ‘dissociation’ better explains many traumatic memories, e.g., those involving fragmentary sensations and feelings which are disconnected from verbal narratives, and associated with amnesia and delayed recall. These works show that making claims about traumatic memory solely based on generalizations from research on nontraumatic memory, and focusing on the constructs of ‘repression’ and ‘repressed memory, ’ can often be confusing distractions and misleading tactics.

To accomplish these two goals, this section need not be comprehensive or up-to-date on the latest research – though I occasionally make additions and am always open to suggestions.

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Q&A

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What is the definition of memory in connection with psychology?

The definition of memory in connection with psychology is based upon recalling information. This is done when remembering things that are learned, information that was retained such as a phone number, recalling information, and also recognition (a song lyric for example).

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