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The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse Paperback – January 15, 1996


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Frequently Bought Together

The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse + Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial + The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st St. Martin's Griffin ed edition (January 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312141238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312141233
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While acknowledging the reality of childhood sexual abuse, Loftus, a research psychologist specializing in memory, believes that in many cases, people create false memories of nonexistent abuse, prompted to do so by their psychotherapists. Writing in the first person with coauthor Ketcham (with whom she wrote Witness for the Defense), Loftus critiques the tools used by some therapists ("trance work," hypnosis, dream analysis, journal writing, etc.) to "recover" patients' buried memories. She presents numerous case histories involving presumed memories that turned out to be fabrications and reports on a study in which false memories of childhood events were created in men and women volunteers. She also discusses her involvement in the case of Paul Ingram, a Washington deputy sheriff who confessed that he was a priest in a satanic cult and sodomizer of children after his two daughters accused him of sexual abuse; he later retracted his confession but was imprisoned anyway. This eye-opening book makes a compelling argument for caution. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this latest entry in the repressed memory/false memory debate, Loftus (psychology, Univ. of Washington; Witness for the Defense, LJ 3/15/91) recounts several incidents of false memory syndrome in a popular 60 Minutes style. While the author does not completely dismiss the theory of repressed memory, she believes that it has become a dangerous panacea in the hands of too many inexperienced therapists. Loftus contends that counselors are inadvertently instilling "memories" of sexual abuse in their patients. She discusses the genesis of this phenomenon at great length, moving from Ellen Bass's Courage To Heal (LJ 5/15/88) to her current foil, Lenore Terr (Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found, LJ 1/94). Recommended for collections needing balance in their treatment of this subject. (Index not seen.)-A. Arro Smith, San Marcos P.L., Tex.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.6 out of 5 stars
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64 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Monica Willyard on June 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
When I read this book, the chapter about Lynn, I began to shake and then to cry. The author described my experience with a therapist from 1994 to 1999. For the past couple of years, I have been trying to put my life together and explain to myself what happened so I could try to explain it to my family. These kind and brave women gave me the words. These ladies are not shaming or cruel to sexual abuse victims at all. I thought they might be at first by reading the book jacket. They also helped me to understand why 5 years of my life went by in a fog where somehow I went from a fairly normal woman to a paranoid woman on 7 psycho-active drugs who couldn't function. I thought that "remembering" my memories would make me feel better. What I have learned since the hellish time is that what we focus on is what grows in our lives. Focusing on every detail of your trauma over and over again every single day will make that trauma the part of your life that grows so that you can't see much beyond it. I wish I could give this book to anyone who is even contemplating seeing a therapist or buying the book Courage To Heal. There are good therapists out there. I had one to help me climb out of my nightmare. If your therapist suggests that you try to remember things that you don't even know happened, please! please read this book first. If you were abused as a child, grieve it for a time. If you keep on going over and over it each day though, your abuser has not only hurt you as a child, but he is hurting you as an adult. After you feel sad for awhile, you have to pick yourself up and move on to create a happy life for yourself. You cannot change your past, and dwelling on it can only bring pain and shame. All I can say is that this book, not the Courage To Heal, has helped me to heal and to get my family back. May God bless the authors and the publishers for making their work available to me and others like me.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wendy B. Hanawalt on January 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In "The Myth of Repressed Memory," Elizabeth Loftus makes a compelling case for the argument that there is, indeed, no such thing as repressed memory. Using science to challenge the common (mis)understanding of repressed memory, she brings us through a few horrifying cases of people who have been, it seems, wrongly accused of sexual abuse as the result of vulnerable "victims" being coaxed and prodded by zealous law enforcement officials and counselors to see abuse where there has been none. While in no way demeaning the very real experiences of real sexual abuse survivors, Loftus takes us through the ins and outs of memory and the workings of the brain, and demonstrates pretty convincingly that there is no "there" there.

I was interested in this subject because it always seemed to me strange that (particularly in the day care abuse cases of the past few decades) children would come up with the most fantastic stories about hidden tunnels and clowns and ritual murder but there was never, ever any evidence uncovered to that effect. I often thought well, if these satanists are murdering scores of babies in their rituals, why aren't we hearing about the strange disappearance of infants from their cribs? It never made sense to me. It still makes no sense that people hold on to these explanations when, as Loftus points out, all the evidence (and plain common sense) points to the fact that they never happened, that memory is not an object existing in time, but a construct, the product of imagery and suggestion and fear and vulnerability.
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67 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Michael Kaan on February 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Loftus was the first to make such a public declaration of skepticism about the theory of repressed and recovered memory, and considering the climate in which this book was written her bravery is commendable. At the time--and still perhaps today--some therapists diagnosed a history of incest within minutes of the intake session, spurious evidence was routinely admissible in the courts, and Multiple Personality Disorder was apparently as common as the flu. Things have changed, and there are more than a few red-faced recovered memory enthusiasts around these days.
One of the things that becomes obvious in this book is the fact that, while the debate was a raging one, few people who took part in it understood what it was really about. The recovered/false memory debate is not about whether the sexual abuse of children is a lie, or that the family is the seat of all evil. It is an essentially scientific debate about the operations of memory and the clinical applications of such knowledge. Loftus navigates through the cultural and rhetorical detritus of the debate to this core issue, and we benefit from her position as an expert researcher.
The book is clearly written for lay people, or for clinicians wanting a very quick summary of the issues. More clinically pertinent summaries of the research findings and theories are available elsewhere. If you're a therapist or researcher looking for professional information, you'll find the journalistic style slow going. However, if you're a lay person, the book is an excellent introduction to the debate.
The core debate that Loftus addresses is not whether or not sexual abuse exists.
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