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False Memory Syndrome

4,860 bytes added, 13 August
Created page with "There's been some mentions of "False Memory Syndrome" on this ng, specifically, allegations that UFO witnesses or Roswell witnesses are suffering from it. Seeing as my int..."
There's been some mentions of "False Memory Syndrome" on
this ng, specifically, allegations that UFO witnesses or
Roswell witnesses are suffering from it. Seeing as my
interest in UFO reports lies mainly in the psychological/
sociological/philosophical effects they have, I thought
I'd post some info I've gathered.

First off: there is no recognized psychological syndrome
known as False Memory Syndrome. The fact that FMS has
become nearly a household word is largely due to the efforts
of the False Memory Syndrome Society, an organization of
parents and others accused of abuse based on "repressed
memories" recovered by victims, and others concerned that
recovered memories are not reliable. Giving it a snappy
name like "False Memory Syndrome" makes it sound like a
real psychological phenomenon, but it does not make it one
in reality. Recovered memories may indeed be unreliable,
but the case is far from closed. Discussing "False Memory
Syndrome" at this point in the research is about as scientific
as talking about cellulite.

The name most often brought up in discussions of distorted
or invented memories is Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a researcher
on memory, specifically its malleability. In "The Myth of
Repressed Memory" she discusses her findings, and her opinion
that memories can be invented out of whole cloth, complete
with symptoms of trauma that never occured (that the invented
memories CAUSE the traumatic symptoms). In this book and in
other articles, she talks about her experiments getting people
to change details of their memories when prompted, and in
constructing memories of events that never occured. In the
oft-quoted "Lost in a Mall" experiment, she got children and
adults to remember being lost in a mall, when they never had
been. Six out of twenty-four subjects remembered the non-
events. Of course, eighteen out of twenty four - 75% - did
not. But 25% is still a significant result.

Balanced against Dr. Loftus are the findings of Lenore
Terr, MD, who believes that, while memories can sometimes
be invented, traumatic symptoms cannot. She exposed the
parentally-induced invented memories of one child in a
court case against two doctors, based on the fact that the
girl's testimony lacked details of things that the girl would
not have known about otherwise (like teh actual mechanics of
sex) and the girl's own lack of traumatic symptoms (like
phobias about handcuffs) that would otherwise be expected
to develop.

Clearly more research on memory is needed. I don't see how
anyone can be certain, at this point, of the reliability or
lack thereof of memories, repressed or otherwise.

It is premature to speculate if UFO reports, complete with
symptoms of trauma and strong emotional reactions, could be
invented. Research on memory clearly will have a bearing on
abduction reports, for instance. Why someone would accuse
Roswell witnesses of FMS, who never repressed anything, is
beyond me. We lack hard data about how much normal memory,
particularly of striking events, operates.

Recent research indicates, however, that memories of trauma
can be repressed. In a study by Linda Williams of the University
of New Hampshire, 129 women who'd been hospitalized for abuse
related injuries, 20 had no memory of the events, with the
younger and more severe abuse victims more likely to forget.
And a national survey of adults who'd been through trauma as
a child, including abuse, auto accidents, floods, etc, 20% had
a period of amnesia for the events, and another 20% had blocked
out details that they later recovered. These went across all
ethnic, social and gender differences (contrary to the
FMS Societies contention that only middle-class white women
in therapy recover memories).

One thing I found interesting is that, in 1995, out of eleven
articles on FMS, six of them appeared in Skeptical Inquirer.
And Elizabeth Loftus also refers to herself and others who
believe there's no such thing as repressed (true) memories
as "skeptics." She also uses alien abductees as a "standard
of falsehood," holding up their stories as such *obvious*
examples of invention that they throw doubt on recovered
memories of abuse. The intellectual dishonesty of this -
begging the question, assuming what you are trying to prove -
is appalling. I, myself, will wait until Dr. Loftus's
experiments are repeated by less biased researchers before
I place my full trust in them. No one knows if alien
abduction stories are invented, witnesses, or whatever - to
assume what we do not know is hardly scientific.

In short, where memories are involved, the jury is not only
still out; the evidence has barely begun to be presented.


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