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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.3 > The Gadfly

The Gadfly

The Persistence of Memory… and of the Memory Wars

You can’t keep a bad idea down. Bury it in here, and it pops out over there. Drive a stake through its shriveled heart, and it sprouts three more arms and four new toes.

Are you old enough to have a memory of the memory wars? They were sparked by a debate that began more than 30 years ago, raging at a fever heat during the 1990s, dividing along a key issue: Do people commonly “repress” their memories of traumatic experiences, memories that can then be “recovered” in therapy, often with the help of hypnosis, dream analysis, and other probing techniques? Yes they do, claimed many psychotherapists, and they testified to that effect in hundreds of court cases in which an adult came to remember, usually in therapy, having been sexually abused years earlier by a parent, teacher, or neighbor.

No they don’t, replied most psychological scientists, whose experimental research demonstrated the power of therapeutic suggestion in creating memories that often grew in implausibility.

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About Skeptic

PINKER ON POST-TRUTH & REASON Steven Pinker on “Why We Are Not Living in a Post-Truth Era: An (Unnecessary) Defense of Reason and a (Necessary) Defense of Universities’ Role in Advancing it” COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Coconut Oil: Health Food or Health Hazard? by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: The Persistence of Memory… and of the Memory Wars, by Carol Tavris ARTICLES The “Lost” Tribes of Israel • The Pentagon’s UFOs How a Multimedia Entertainment Company Created a UFO News Story • The Problem with the Walking Dead And How They Flummoxed Science for Centuries • The Enigma of Stephen Jay Gould • Why the Human Brain Did Not Evolve to Accurately Represent the True Nature of Reality • Homeopathy’s New Clothes: Release Active Drugs • Pressured Apologies, False Confessions, and Witch Hunts • Two Kinds of Progressive Atheism • Surfing for Truth in All the Right Places: An Empirical Test of the Backfire Effect and How the Internet Can Reduce Anti-vaccination Attitudes REVIEWS Reviews of “A review of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities” • “Spectacle of Illusion: Deception Magic and the Paranormal” • “The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost” • “Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture” JUNIOR SKEPTIC The Chilling, Changeling Chupacabra!