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False Memory Syndrome

  1. Brendan E. Depue

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0346

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Depue, B. E. 2010. False Memory Syndrome. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Colorado at Boulder

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


False memory syndrome (FMS), although not recognized as a psychiatric disorder in either the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which are the two key reference manuals for mental illness throughout the world, is a term widely used in legal and scientific arenas to describe the hypothesis that recovered memories may at times be partially incorrect or altogether false. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) first coined the term in the 1990s in reaction to an abundance of cases during the previous two decades in which patients claimed to be victims of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) or satanic ritual. These recovered memory cases led to criminal prosecutions of alleged abusers, lawsuits against therapists by former clients and parents, and even legislative reform. The 2008 website of the FMSF supplies the following definition for the syndrome.

[A] condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes … [T]he syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior.


  • recovered memories;
  • illusory memories;
  • childhood sexual abuse;
  • false memory syndrome;
  • False Memory Syndrome Foundation