David H. Gleaves makes a compelling argument towards anecdotal evidence supporting the idea of false memories for many reasons. One of his points, and considerably the largest and most emphasized, is that the culture of today illuminates the ease of creating a false memory, or False Memory Syndrome (FMS). Society in the past and in today’s world recognizes blocked and recovered memories due to the prevalence in today’s media such as individuals reporting sexual assault predominantly and then revoking their statements later and putting the blame onto their recovery of memory. In the article Are Blocked and Recovered Memories Valid Phenomena? By Richard Halgin, he brings about the reasoning of the popularity of blocked and recovering memories because of “‘high profile’ cases in which a person claims false memories of abuse had been suggested or implied” (Halgin, pg.133). Many recognizable cases have been brought to life revolving around recovering of memories associated with sexual assault, such as Paul Igman’s case involving confessions based on false memories during interrogation. On the other hand, there are clinicians who support anecdotal evidence.
John F. Kihlstrom is one of those supporters. Those who claim locked and recovered memories to be real believe that the evidence to support individuals claims are as important as other physical evidence. The strengths surrounding those who rely on anecdotal evidence is the personal testimonies to support their claims. Researchers cannot see into the mind and tell whether or not the claims are true, though there is evidence that suggests that testimonies alone could support blocked and recovered memories. Personal testimonies are the personal accounts and are the only legit evidence to be used in these situations. Though there is one strength that is compelling, there are many weaknesses surrounding blocked and recovered memories, such as False Memory Syndrome (FMS) as stated above, the strong evidence supporting laboratory situations, and the overall stigma against the use of personal testimonies in court that are hard to withstand.
David H. Gleaves brings to light the notion of false traumatic memories being harder to convince individuals of than those false memories of something less traumatizing, an example used is asking participants if they recall a bell ringing, and when convinced, only a few individuals confirmed hearing the bell go off. I agree with Gleaves somewhat. It is proven that individuals can be convinced something that did not happen actually happened, it still is a very slim percentage of successful cases displayed within this article. An example of that is in the study conducted by Loftus and Barnes (1982) who discovered that when asked to recall a violent event, 75.6% were correct in their memory (Halgin, pg. 157). That 24.4% did not recall the event correctly, which supports my stand on this topic. Though many cases of blocked and recovered memories do involve traumatic experiences and I do believe that these situations are valid.
My thoughts on the possibility that popular culture played a role in the increased acceptance of the phenomenon of false memories is that I believe there is a correlation between the two. As more and more cases of false memory are being highlighted by the media,the general population will create their own opinions of the flames memories topic and that would persuade the rest of society to follow. It is easy to think that children could be ‘coached’ into believing a situation occurred rather than having an adult prosecuted for an incredible insane and unadulterated act.
My recommendations for clinicians treating clients who report recovered memories is to first off believe the individual until it is proven differently. There are existing cases of blocked and recovered memories that are true and have evidence to support those claims. The individuals reporting these should be cared for while at the same time the clinician should be conducting research to prove whether or not these events actually happened. There is a great possibility that that the client could have False Memory Syndrome too and that should also be taken seriously.
- Halgin, R.. (n.d.). Are Blocked and Recovered Memories Valid, 161.
- Loftus, E.. (n.d.). Memories of things