Dispatch from the (UN)Civil Memory Wars

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
  • Chris R. Brewin
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 291)


Over the last few years, our society has been immersed in a motley collection of “Memory Wars,” as they were called in a lengthy review of several books on recovered memory published in Scientific American (Schacter, 1995). The “memory war” theme was also used to title an editorial that appeared in Psychology Today magazine (Neimark, 1996). The editorialist wrote: “You’d think that memory would be the stuff of dry academia, but it turns out to be one of the most illuminating and terrifying stories of our time” (p. 6). And the “war” theme appeared in the title of a book that reprinted a sizzling pair of essays published previously in the New York Review of Books by Berkeley professor and Freud scholar, Frederick Crews (1995). In those essays, Crews identified a number of beliefs about human nature that he felt have been propagated by leaders of a well-meaning, but misguided, movement:

that repression is the normal human response to trauma; that experiences in infancy produce long-term memories that can be accurately retrieved decades later; that adult psychological difficulties can be reliably ascribed to certain forgotten events in early childhood and not others; that sexual traumas are incomparably more susceptible to repression and the formation of neurosis than any other kind; that symptoms are themselves “memories” that can yield up the story of their origin; that dream interpretation, too, can disclose the repressed past; that memory retrieval is necessary for symptom removal; and that psychotherapists can confidently trace their clinical findings to the patient’s unconscious without allowing for the contaminating influence of their own diagnostic system, imparted directly or through suggestion (274).


Sexual Abuse False Memory Crime Victim Misinformation Effect False Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
    • 1
  • Chris R. Brewin
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonUK

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