A Cognitive Corroborative Case Study Approach for Investigating Discovered Memories of Sexual Abuse

  • Jonathan W. Schooler
  • Zara Ambadar
  • Miriam Bendiksen
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 291)


In recent years, memory researchers have convincingly illustrated the dangerous role that suggestion may play in inducing fabricated memories of childhood trauma. Although post-event suggestion had long been known to alter the recollection of details of events (e.g., Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978; Schooler, Gerhard, & Loftus, 1986), recent research has demonstrated that experimenter suggestions can cause the vivid recollection of events that never occurred (Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman, & Bruck, 1994; Hyman, 1995; Loftus & Ketcham, 1994). Suggestions can even cause individuals to falsely recall being repeatedly exposed to negative situations that are unlikely to have ever happened (see Lindsay, this volume). The documented power of suggestion to induce memories of experiences that never occurred is especially alarming in light of the suggestive techniques that a minority of therapists are known to use with their clients in pursuit of forgotten memories of abuse (e.g., Polusny & Follette, 1996; Poole, Lindsay, Memon, & Bull, 1995; Yapko, 1994). If individuals can be induced to recall false memories under the modest persuasive pressures used in the laboratory, one can only imagine the dangers of therapy settings in which potentially unwarranted suggestions of abuse are made: 1) by a trusted authoritative figure; 2) over potentially years of sessions, and; 3) with a patient who may be particularly suggestible either due to hypnosis (cf. Lynn, this volume) or as a natural consequence of their dissociative tendencies (cf. Hyman & Billings, 1995) which are commonly associated with patients “diagnosed” as likely victims of abuse.


Sexual Abuse Childhood Sexual Abuse False Memory Childhood Trauma Hindsight Bias 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan W. Schooler
    • 1
  • Zara Ambadar
    • 1
  • Miriam Bendiksen
    • 2
  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Bendiksen and BendiksenSandefjordNorway

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