Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Repressed Memories

The woman in our story suffers from repressed memories of her son's death, and so I wanted to look into Repressed Memories and what they actually were as well as what causes them.

What I found out was that Repressed Memories, known by the diagnostic term "Dissociative Amnesia", is actually a hypothetical concept which actually has sparse evidence backing it as an actual neurological condition. The descriptions of Repressed Memories are memories that have been locked away, instead of forgotten or never registered, making it different from Amnesia. From what accounts have been found, they are often of traumatic experiences that have been locked away deep in the subconscious so the affected can process.

From and Article I read on Harvard Magazine's website, written by Ashley Pettus, I learned a few facts of studies done into Repressed Memories.

In the article, I read that there were some cases of repressed memories in the news during the 80s , when people were claiming to have memories of sexual assault as children and many court cases were started. However, these were dropped within a decade as the accusers had lost conviction in their cases after speaking about it to therapists.

Recently, a Harvard Professor named Harrison Pope conducted a study to explore how many cases of repressed memory occurred throughout history. To do this he looked at accounts of it in works of Fiction, however the earliest examples he could find were mostly from the 19th century; such as Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. This led him and his colleagues to believe that dissociative amnesia is not an actual neurological function, but instead a cultural condition that has been popularized by Hollywood and psychoanalysis. This theory is due to the lack of basis there is for the condition, and how there were no real evidence of it before the 1800s.

Pope also stated that cultural differences at those times could not account for the lack of evidence as although people did not understand, for example, hallucinations, there were still accounts of this. However, an irregular occurrence such as repressed memories has not been noted and therefore is unlikely to actually occur.

However, soon after publishing this paper, it was found that a work of fiction(namely the opera Nina) which predated the 1800s had an account of repressed memory, though Pope still doubted the legitimacy of the condition.

Nevertheless, the idea of repressed memories are still disputed in psychological circles.

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