New version page

Memory Distortion

Upgrade to remove ads

This preview shows page 1-2 out of 7 pages.

Save
View Full Document
Premium Document
Do you want full access? Go Premium and unlock all 7 pages.
Access to all documents
Download any document
Ad free experience
Premium Document
Do you want full access? Go Premium and unlock all 7 pages.
Access to all documents
Download any document
Ad free experience

Upgrade to remove ads
Unformatted text preview:

Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by AliensSusan A. Clancy, Richard J. McNally,Daniel L. Schacter, and Mark F. LenzenwegerHarvard UniversityRoger K. PitmanHarvard Medical School and Massachusetts General HospitalFalse memory creation was examined in people who reported having recovered memories of traumaticevents that are unlikely to have occurred: abduction by space aliens. A variant of the Deese/Roediger–McDermott paradigm (J. Deese, 1959; H. L. Roediger III & K. B. McDermott, 1995) was used toexamine false recall and false recognition in 3 groups: people reporting recovered memories of alienabduction, people who believe they were abducted by aliens but have no memories, and people who denyhaving been abducted by aliens. Those reporting recovered and repressed memories of alien abductionwere more prone than control participants to exhibit false recall and recognition. The groups did not differin correct recall or recognition. Hypnotic suggestibility, depressive symptoms, and schizotypic featureswere significant predictors of false recall and false recognition.Reports of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse havebeen controversial. According to one perspective, exposure totrauma can result in amnesia for memories that would be tooupsetting to be consciously accessible (e.g., Terr, 1991; van derKolk, 1994). Putative mechanisms for this amnesia include repres-sion and dissociation. Repression has been conceptualized in anumber of different ways ranging from active, motivated suppres-sion (e.g., Breuer & Freud, 1895/1955) to an automatic uncon-scious defensive mechanism (e.g., Freud, 1946/1966). Dissocia-tion refers to abnormal integration of thoughts, feelings, andexperiences into the stream of consciousness and memory (e.g.,Bernstein & Putnam, 1986) so that traumatic memories can be splitoff from consciousness (e.g., Terr, 1991). Although there areimportant conceptual differences between repression and dissoci-ation (for a review, see Singer, 1990), the terms are used inter-changeably in the literature. These hypothesized processes do,however, have several features in common: that advocates ofrecovered memories believe that they result in amnesia for trau-matic events; that these buried memories nevertheless influencethought, behavior, and physiological processes (e.g., Brown, Sche-flin, & Hammond, 1998); and that they can be retrieved years laterwith scant distortion in detail (e.g., Terr, 1994).Other psychologists question these claims (e.g., Lindsay &Read, 1994; Loftus, 1993), emphasizing that memory is construc-tive, that illusory memories can be created (e.g., Schacter, 1999),and that there is little evidence that memories of trauma obeydifferent psychological laws than do memories of nontraumaticevents (Shobe & Kihlstrom, 1997). Finally, underscoring the mal-leability of memory, skeptics have warned that therapies designedto recover memories of repressed (or dissociated) trauma mayinadvertently foster false memories of trauma (e.g., Loftus, 1993).This controversy has stimulated scientific research on falsememory (for reviews, see Bjorklund, 2000; Roediger, 1996;Schacter, Norman, & Koutstaal, 1998). Roediger and McDermott(1995) revived and modified Deese’s (1959) paradigm to examinefalse recall and false recognition of semantically associated words.In the Deese/Roediger–McDermott paradigm, participants hear aseries of word lists, each comprising associates of a single non-presented theme word. For example, one list consisted of wordsassociated with sweet (e.g., sour, candy, sugar, bitter). Followinglist presentation, participants performed a recall test, and thenperformed a recognition test composed of studied words, nonpre-sented theme words (e.g., sweet), and other nonstudied words.False recall occurs when participants incorrectly recall a nonpre-sented theme word, and false recognition occurs when participantsincorrectly claim to have studied a nonpresented theme word.Using a variant of this paradigm, we found that women report-ing recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse were moreprone to exhibit memory distortion than were control participants,or women who had always remembered their childhood sexualabuse (Clancy, Schacter, McNally, & Pitman, 2000). Unfortu-nately, we were unable to establish whether the recovered mem-ories were false or genuine and, therefore, whether the recoveredmemory group’s susceptibility to memory distortion was a func-tion of cognitive impairments related to abuse or a function ofcognitive characteristics rendering them susceptible to developingfalse memories.The purpose of the experiment reported here was to examinememory distortion in people who report recovered memories oftraumatic events that seem unlikely to have occurred: abduction byspace aliens. Claims of abduction by space aliens are becomingincreasingly common (e.g., Bartholomew & Howard, 1998; New-Susan A. Clancy, Richard J. McNally, Daniel L. Schacter, and Mark F.Lenzenweger, Department of Psychology, Harvard University; Roger K.Pitman, Department of Psychology, Harvard Medical School, and Massa-chusetts General Hospital, Boston.Mark F. Lenzenweger is now at the Department of Psychology, StateUniversity of New York at Binghamton.Preparation of this article was supported in part by National Institute onAging Grant NIA08441 and National Institute of Mental Health GrantMH61268.Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susan A.Clancy, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 1232 WilliamJames Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. E-mail:[email protected] of Abnormal Psychology Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.2002, Vol. 111, No. 3, 455–461 0021-843X/02/$5.00 DOI: 10.1037//0021-843X.111.3.455455man & Baumeister, 1997). Although narrative accounts of alienabduction have captured the attention and imagination of theAmerican public and have spawned many movies, TV shows, andbooks, such reports have been ignored by the scientific community(e.g., Mack, 1994). More recently, psychologists have interpretedthese claims as evidence of memory distortion (e.g., Newman &Baumeister, 1997), in part because “abductees” seldom evince anysigns or symptoms of mental illness (e.g., Spanos, Cross, Dickson,& DuBreuil, 1993). Published narratives of alien abduction (Hop-kins, 1981; Mack, 1994; Streiber, 1987), as well as the narrativesrelated to us by our participants, follow a


Download Memory Distortion
Our administrator received your request to download this document. We will send you the file to your email shortly.
Loading Unlocking...
Login

Join to view Memory Distortion and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or
We will never post anything without your permission.
Don't have an account?
Sign Up

Join to view Memory Distortion 2 2 and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or

By creating an account you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use

Already a member?