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The Myth of Repressed Memory and the Realities of Science


Address correspondence to Elizabeth Loftus, Psychology Dept. (Box 351525), University of Washington, Seatde, WA 98195–1525.


The Myth of Repressed Memory was written as part of an effort to bring to public attention a concern about some therapy practices that are based on repression folklore. The folklore includes the assumptions that we banish traumatic experiences from consciousness, that we can use special techniques to recover these banished memories, and that they can be reliably recovered and must be recovered in order to be cured. In fact, there is no cogent scientific support for this folklore and ample reason to believe that suggestive prolonged searches for hidden memories can be harmful. After developing false memories, innumerable “patients” have torn their families apart, and more than a few innocent people have been sent to prison. Instead of focusing on the potential problem of false memory creation, or the scientific studies of memory, or even the destruction of families, as I did in the book, Pope attacked the character or ethics, occasionally nitpicking at the methods, of people who appear to support my premises. This article reiterates the original message and corrects errors in the review of the book.