Article

Long-Term Memory in Adults Exposed to Childhood Violence: Remembering Genital Contact Nearly 20 Years Later

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Abstract

Recent changes in statutes of limitations for crimes against children permit accusations of decades-old child sexual abuse to be considered in court. These laws challenge scientists to address the accuracy of long-term memory of genital contact. To examine theoretical, clinical, and legal concerns about long-term memory accuracy, children who in the 1990s (Time 1) were 3 to 17 years old and experienced a documented child maltreatment medical examination that included genital touch were interviewed between 2012 and 2014 (Time 2), as adults, about the medical experience. Almost half of the adults reported the childhood genital contact. Child sexual abuse and greater depression in adulthood predicted greater memory accuracy. No participant falsely reported chargeable offenses that did not occur, even when such offenses had been falsely suggested in a childhood interview. Some participants erred with regard to specific and misleading questions implying less egregious acts. Ramifications for theory and application are discussed.

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... Laws lengthening the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse indicate the extent to which victims can sometimes reveal facts that occurred decades earlier (e.g., Dodier & Tomas, 2018). Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, and Qin (2019) examined the accuracy of memories for genital contact nearly 20 years after they occurred and for which the participants had already been interviewed in the 1990s (Time 1; Eisen, Qin, Goodman, & Davis, 2002). Between 2012 and 2014 (Time 2; Goldfarb et al., 2019), 43% (n = 13) of the participants reported the genital contact. ...
... Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, and Qin (2019) examined the accuracy of memories for genital contact nearly 20 years after they occurred and for which the participants had already been interviewed in the 1990s (Time 1; Eisen, Qin, Goodman, & Davis, 2002). Between 2012 and 2014 (Time 2; Goldfarb et al., 2019), 43% (n = 13) of the participants reported the genital contact. Despite overall accuracy in the details reported by the participants and an ability to adopt a conservative response strategy (i.e., "I don't know"), several participants falsely endorsed misleading and schema-consistent information suggested by the interviewer at Time 2 (e.g., falsely reporting that the doctor bent the participant over during the medical examination). ...
... Its use is recommended when other less advanced methods (e.g., standard or structured interview protocols) are not sufficient to overcome factors that prevent information retrieval (e.g., time delay). The study by Goldfarb et al. (2019) serves as a good example to argue for the relevance of using a CI. As the authors wrote, "reporting not knowing might be expected, as the intervening time delay would likely result in significant forgetting" (p. ...
Article
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Decades-old child sexual abuse cases stress the need to examine the accuracy of long-term memory regarding traumatic events. The article by Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, and Qin (published in the March 2019 issue of Clinical Psychological Science) showed that memories of genital contact occurring decades ago were highly accurate. We argue that their findings emphasize the use of investigative interviewing in historical abuse cases. The cognitive interview (CI) is a way to accomplish this because it is known to increase the completeness of memory reports. We also contend that the CI may reduce a victim’s anxiety at the time of the interview. Therefore, besides a well-proven legal relevance, investigative interviewing could also have clinical value.
... Language and memory capacities are still developing in young children; therefore, most reports of abuse are delayed, and thus rely heavily on the recall of survivors (Goodman et al., 2019). These challenges have often been used to discredit the allegations made by survivors later in life; on the other hand, many researchers have argued that emotional events improve memory recollection in that emotional or traumatic memories are typically remembered with more clarity than non-emotional events (Arntz et al., 2005;Goldfarb et al., 2018;Goodman et al., 2019). With this in mind, it is important that researchers value and uphold retrospective accounts of CSA, as survivors may not have the capacity to come forward until later in life. ...
... In other words, future research should include first-person narratives of adults who experienced sexualized violence in early childhood. Although the validity of retrospective research has sometimes been questioned given the presumed uncertainty of survivor memories, several researchers maintain that emotional events are in fact often remembered with great clarity (Arntz et al., 2005;Goldfarb et al., 2018;Goodman et al., 2019). Based on this review, we recommend that future research prioritizes first-person narratives of survivors to amplify their lived experiences and shift the discourse to include survivors' knowledge and diverse experiences. ...
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This article reviews literature on survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) who were preschool-aged when the abuse occurred and applies critical discourse analysis to reveal power relations within this field of research. Utilizing themes of narrative theory, this article demonstrates how the current discourse has promoted a single story of developmental trajectories marred by entrenched deficits. The reviewed literature often utilized definitive language in describing a narrative of damage that not all survivors identify with. We critically examine this narrative as an expression of power that risks misrepresenting a large group of people. Additionally, we recommend that future research promote a discourse of multiple stories in which survivors have agency to author their own stories.
... It is possible that mock jurors perceive children's memories to be more malleable over time, with long delays resulting in more memory decay and less accurate recall of an event. However, in contrast with adults' beliefs about children's memories, research has demonstrated that long-term memories for core details about personally salient and emotional events, such as abuse, tend to remain accurate over time, up to 20 years in some studies (Ceci & Bruck, 1993;Goldfarb et al., 2019;Goodman et al., 2017Goodman et al., , 2019. ...
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Adults’ assessments of the credibility of children’s reports are affected by factors including the frequency of abuse, reporting delays and the child’s age. The present study examined whether similar factors affect the perceived credibility of children reporting physical abuse, which is more common than sexual abuse. Two hundred and eight mock jurors read a simulated transcript of a child reporting physical abuse to police and made credibility ratings. Within each transcript, abuse frequency (once, repeated), reporting timing (recent, delayed), police question type (open, closed) and child age (6 or 10 years) were manipulated. The child was considered more credible when the abuse was only experienced once and reported shortly after it occurred, and when prompted with open questions. The child’s age did not affect credibility judgments. Current findings support recommendations to prioritise open questions with children and provide evidence for extension of the benefits of open questions to children’s credibility.
... However, it can also be considered a limitation since nuances in descriptions may have been lost and the chronological order of experiences may have been less precise, which can make the results even harder to transfer or compare to other women with experiences of childhood maltreatment. Nevertheless, memories of emotional events and traumatic experiences are suggested to be better recalled than more neutral events and experiences (24,25). The initial purposive sampling (age, subjective well-being and well-functioning, and experience of childhood maltreatment) could be criticized for being too specified for grounded theory in that the defined borders already set the stage for the inductive theory. ...
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Background: A significant proportion of individuals exposed to maltreatment in childhood adapt positively in adulthood despite the adversities, i.e., show resilience. Little is known about resources and processes related to adulthood that promote resilience. Since women are overrepresented as victims of intrafamilial violence, understanding resilience among adult women is important. Objective: To explore experiences of resilience among adult women who perceive well-being and well-functioning although being exposed to maltreatment during childhood. Participants and Setting: This study included 22 women with experiences of childhood maltreatment, mean age of 48 years, living in Sweden. Methods: Individual interviews were conducted and analyzed according to constructivist grounded theory. Results: The process of resilience was experienced as an ongoing endeavor to live, not only survive, an internal process that interacted with external processes involving social relations and conditions. This endeavor was built on four interrelated resources: establishing and maintaining command of life; employing personal resources; surrounding oneself with valuable people; and reaching acceptance. These worked together, not in a linear or chronological order, but in up and down ways, turns and straight lines (now and then), through the process from maltreatment to well-being. Conclusion: Resilience was found to rest on intrapersonal and interpersonal resources. Individual's inherent capabilities can be, depending on life circumstances and available resources, realized in a way that promote well-being and well-functioning despite severe adversities. Therefore, public health initiatives, social services, and policies should provide conditions that help women maltreated in childhood to live fully rather than merely to survive.
... En fait, il semblerait, dans le cas de violences sexuelles, que la précision des souvenirs soit corrélée positivement avec la sévérité des violences (Alexander et al., 2005). Une récente étude longitudinale examinant la qualité et l'exactitude de souvenirs de contacts génitaux subis environ 20 ans plus tôt a montré que le niveau d'intensité de trouble de stress post-traumatique n'était en rien associé à une plus faible exactitude des récits, qui étaient, de manière générale, particulièrement exacts (Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, & Qin, 2019). En d'autres mots, à l'inverse d'une amnésie dissociative qui établit un lien entre traumatisme et oubli, il semble que les personnes ayant un vécu traumatique, ou atteintes du trouble de stress post-traumatique ne se souviennent généralement que trop bien de ce qu'elles ont vécu (McNally, 2003). ...
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Les années 1990 ont été le théâtre d’une vive opposition entre les partisans de l’idée de refoulement traumatique et les sceptiques, expliquant qu’un tel concept n’était pas soutenu par des preuves scientifiques. Aujourd’hui plus volontiers nommé amnésie dissociative et inclus dans la 5ème édition du manuel diagnostique et statistique des troubles mentaux, ce concept est toujours largement utilisé par les psychologues, alors même que ses preuves d’existence sont toujours peu convaincantes. Dans cet article, nous proposons un regard critique du concept, passons en revue les preuves avancées par ses défenseurs et développons leurs limites méthodologiques et conceptuelles. Nous proposons aussi des mécanismes alternatifs pour expliquer le phénomène des souvenirs retrouvés : faux souvenirs, réinterprétation d’événements traumatiques, stratégies d’évitement, etc. Enfin, nous terminons par un appel à la prudence à destination de la communauté scientifique et clinique.
... Longitudinal studies have shown that young maltreated children can accurately retain salient memories of their maltreatment well into adulthood (Alexander et al., 2005;Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, & Qin, 2018;Goodman, Quas, Goldfarb, Gonzalves, & Gonzalez, 2019). Whilst acknowledging that the relationship between negative emotional events, such as maltreatment, and memory is complex, for many adults the greater the traumatic impact of the childhood event, the more accurate the memory of the event in adulthood (Goodman et al., 2019). ...
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There is general absence of research about the relationship between trauma symptoms and immediate and delayed suggestibility in children who have been sexually abused. The participants were 134 children aged between 7 and 17 years with a history of reported sexual abuse. All children completed the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (2), a non‐verbal IQ test, and The University of California at Los Angeles Child/Adolescent Reaction Index for post‐traumatic stress (UCLA‐PTSD‐RI‐5). Delayed suggestibility was measured after a 1 week delay. A Hierarchical Regression showed that trauma symptoms accounted overall for 43.4% of the variance in delayed suggestibility after controlling for age, sex, IQ, and immediate recall (a large effect size). There was a small shared variance between trauma and immediate suggestibility (low effect size). The findings strongly suggest that the severity of trauma symptoms impact more on delayed than immediate suggestibility. The theoretical and forensic implications are discussed.
... On this occasion, dissociative amnesia was widely covered in the media and French proponents were regularly invited to explain this mechanism. Nevertheless, there are other arguments for long statute of limitations that do not emphasize the trauma model of dissociative amnesia (e.g., Goldfarb, Goodman, Larson, Eisen, & Qin, 2019). ...
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Recovered memories of abuse in therapy are especially controversial if the clients were not aware they were abused before therapy. In the past, such memory recovery has led to legal action, as well as a debate about whether such memories might be repressed, forgotten, or false memories. More than two decades after the height of the controversy, it is unclear to what degree such memories are still recovered today, and to what extent it occurs in France. In our French survey of 1312 participants (Mage = 33; 53% female), 551 reported having done therapy at some point. Of that 551, 33 (6%) indicated they had recovered memories of abuse in therapy that they did not know about before therapy. Sexual abuse was the most commonly reported type that was recovered in therapy (79%). As in past research, discussing the possibility of repressed memories with therapists was associated with reports of recovered memories of abuse. Surprisingly, memory recovery occurred just as much in behavioural and cognitive therapies as it did in therapies focused on trauma. We found recovered memories in a proportion of clients who began therapy recently. Recovered memories in therapy appears to be an ongoing concern in France.
... The latter such events may be remembered with greater accuracy than the likely less memorable bean bag game (Goodman et al. 2016). Furthermore, a longer delay before the interview would be expected to degrade memory for the inconsequential event studied here, perhaps leading to greater memory error and suggestibility in relation to interviewer support, a topic worthy of future research, although for highly consequential, embarrassing, and significant events, children can remember them even after long delays (Goldfarb et al. 2019b). ...
Article
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The present study examined the effects of interviewer support on the memory and suggestibility of children (N = 71), all of whom were involved in child maltreatment investigations. This was accomplished by questioning 3- to 12-year olds (66% African American) about a game played individually with an experimenter at the end of the maltreatment investigation, so that the results did not affect any evaluations or legal proceedings. After the game, the children were interviewed in a warm and engaging high support manner or in a relatively formal and withdrawn low support fashion--the latter, likely considered by some as “neutral” in child forensic interviews. Typical age effects emerged overall; for example, with the preschool (compared to school-aged) children providing fewer correct units of information in free recall and making more errors to specific and misleading questions. However, findings also varied in relation to interviewer support and type of question. To specific questions, older (but not younger) children in the low (compared to high) interviewer support condition made more omission errors, possibly due to the interviewer’s low support resulting in a “no bias” for older children in answering these questions. To misleading questions, younger (but not older) children in the high (compared to low) support condition made significantly more commission errors. The elevated commission error rate in the high support group appeared to be driven by a small number of 3- and 4-year-olds who had a “yes-bias” when answering misleading questions. Implications for children’s accuracy in maltreatment investigations and for children’s psychological and physical security are discussed.
Chapter
Autobiographical memory is memory about experiences significant to the self. Generally, as children develop, their autobiographical memories improve. However, a number of factors can affect or are related to development of children's and adolescents’ autobiographical memories. These include issues associated with socioemotional, physiological, and psychological health and well-being. For example, sensitive parent-child conversations and elaborative reminiscing about personal life events can improve children's memories for these events later. In addition, parent-child attachment affects how children attend to distressing events, which can enhance or impair encoding and later memory of them. The body's physiological response to traumatic experiences can help individuals remember and avoid similar experiences in the future. However, chronic stress can negatively affect the brain and the body's physiological stress response systems, resulting in problems such as hyperactivity in the amygdala, decreased hippocampal volume, and atypical cortisol responses to stress. Chronic stress and the resulting physiological changes are associated with mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which predict heightened or impaired memory and further repercussions on the brain and stress response systems. However, traumatic experiences and chronic stress do not always lead to mental illness and memory problems. A variety of interventions and behaviors, such as emotion regulation training, mindfulness training, and physical exercise can counter the negative effects of trauma. In this chapter, we will present research and theory on children's and adolescent's autobiographical memory and health, including factors that can improve or impair memory, and those related to resilience and recovery.
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De vraag hoe traumatische ervaringen, zoals seksueel misbruik, worden herinnerd behoort tot een van de meeste verhitte debatten in de psychologie. Het gaat dan met name om de kwestie van verdringing en of traumatische ervaringen onbewust kunnen worden opgeslagen. Otgaar en collega’s laten zien dat het debat hierover aan een stevige opmars bezig is. De aanname dat verdringing bestaat kan bijdragen aan het ontstaan van pseudo-herinneringen die tot valse beschuldigingen en onterechte veroordelingen kunnen leiden.
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Age-related improvements in children’s ability to monitor and regulate their mental operations are widely recognized to be a driving force in cognitive development, underlying age-related improvements in accuracy on a wide variety of tasks. Thus, a major focus of metacognitive research is the development of these skills during childhood. This work has primarily focused on achievements in middle childhood, largely because prevailing views hold that young children have extremely limited abilities in this domain. However, there is good evidence to suggest that young children may be more metacognitively skilled than previously assumed. This chapter reviews previous research, as well as recent findings from naturalistic and experimental studies to argue that critical milestones in metacognition are achieved in early childhood, providing the foundation for learning in a host of domains and subsequent metacognitive development. Then we discuss theoretical issues to consider when formulating a comprehensive model of metacognitive development in early childhood.
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A stratified random sample survey of clinical members of the American Psychological Association was conducted to determine the number and nature of cases involving alleged ritualistic and religion-related child abuse, whether reported directly by children or retrospectively by adults. Results indicated that only a minority of clinical psychologists have encountered ritual cases, but of those, the vast majority believe their clients' claims. Even so, the purported evidence for the allegations, especially in cases reported by adults claining to have suffered the abuse during childhood, is questionable. Most clients who allege ritual abuse are diagnosed as having multiple personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, two increasingly popular, but controversial, psychological diagnoses.Clinical and legal implications are discussed and a future research agenda is urged.
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Within the legal system, children are frequently interviewed about their experiences more than once, with different information elicited in different interviews. The presumed positive and negative effects of multiple interviewing have generated debate and controversy within the legal system and among researchers. Some commentators emphasise that repeated interviews foster inaccurate recall and are inherently suggestive, whereas others emphasise the benefits of allowing witnesses more than one opportunity to recall information. In this article we briefly review the literature on repeated interviewing before presenting a series of cases highlighting what happens when children are interviewed more than once for various reasons. We conclude that, when interviewers follow internationally recognised best-practice guidelines emphasising open-questions and free memory recall, alleged victims of abuse should be interviewed more than once to ensure that more complete accounts are obtained. Implications for current legal guidelines concerning repeated interviewing are discussed.
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In 3 experiments, the authors examined factors that, according to the source-monitoring framework, might influence false memory formation and true/false memory discernment. In Experiment 1, combined effects of warning and visualization on false childhood memory formation were examined, as were individual differences in true and false childhood memories. Combining warnings and visualization led to the lowest false memory and highest true memory. Several individual difference factors (e.g., parental fearful attachment style) predicted false recall. In addition, true and false childhood memories differed (e.g., in amount of information). Experiment 2 examined relations between Deese/Roediger-McDermott task performance and false childhood memories. Deese/Roediger-McDermott performance (e.g., intrusion of unrelated words in free recall) was associated with false childhood memory, suggesting liberal response criteria in source decisions as a common underlying mechanism. Experiment 3 investigated adults' abilities to discern true and false childhood memory reports (e.g., by detecting differences in amount of information as identified in Experiment 1). Adults who were particularly successful in discerning such reports indicated reliance on event plausibility. Overall, the source-monitoring framework provided a viable explanatory framework. Implications for theory and clinical and forensic interviews are discussed.
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This study examines the usefulness of the Trauma Symptom Checklist (TSC-40) in measuring the long-term sequelae of sexual abuse. In a national survey of 2,963 professional women, the TSC-40 was found to be reliable and to display predictive validity with regard to childhood sexual victimization. Women who reported a sexual abuse history scored significantly higher than did women with no history of abuse on each of the six subscales and on the overall TSC-40 score. Various aspects of childhood victimization were associated with the subscale scores, with the Sexual Abuse Trauma Index and Dissociation subscales being more sensitive to the specific components of the abuse.
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Tens of thousands of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are reported to authorities annually. Although some of the child victims obtain psychological counseling or therapy, controversy exists about the potential consequences for the accuracy of victims’ memory of CSA, both in childhood and adulthood. Yet, delaying needed therapeutic intervention may have detrimental effects on the victims’ well-being and recovery. To address this controversy, this study examined whether psychological counseling during a CSA prosecution predicts accuracy or inaccuracy of long-term memory for CSA. Participants (N = 71) were CSA victims who took part in a longitudinal study of memory and legal involvement. Data regarding participants’ counseling attendance during the prosecution and details of their CSA cases were gathered throughout legal involvement and shortly thereafter (Time 1). Ten to 16 years later (Time 2), participants were questioned about a range of topics, including the alleged abuse. Time 1 counseling attendance significantly predicted more correct answers to abuse-related questions and (for corroborated cases) fewer overreporting responses at Time 2. Counseling was unrelated to underreporting responses. These results held even with other potential influences, such as abuse severity, victim–defendant relationship, posttraumatic stress disorder criteria met, testifying in the case, and delay, were statistically controlled. Although further research is needed, this study provides evidence that psychological counseling received by CSA victims during or shortly after prosecutions may improve later memory for abuse-related information.
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Psychological scientists draw inferences about populations based on samples—of people, situations, and stimuli—from those populations. Yet, few papers identify their target populations, and even fewer justify how or why the tested samples are representative of broader populations. A cumulative science depends on accurately characterizing the generality of findings, but current publishing standards do not require authors to constrain their inferences, leaving readers to assume the broadest possible generalizations. We propose that the discussion section of all primary research articles specify Constraints on Generality (i.e., a “COG” statement) that identify and justify target populations for the reported findings. Explicitly defining the target populations will help other researchers to sample from the same populations when conducting a direct replication, and it could encourage follow-up studies that test the boundary conditions of the original finding. Universal adoption of COG statements would change publishing incentives to favor a more cumulative science.
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Individuals with a history of trauma, particularly maltreatment, often have accurate memories for trauma-related events. This does not mean that trauma never adversely affects autobiographical memory performance; indeed, some individuals with a trauma history reveal deficits in their memory performance while others at times show memory advantages over individuals without a trauma history. We posit here that individual differences in memory may be related in part to the emotion dysregulation and psychopathology resulting from the trauma and in part to the nature of the event to be recalled. In this chapter, we focus on the scientific literature on child maltreatment, trauma-related psychopathology, and memory from a developmental psychopathology perspective. We summarize relevant theory and research on memory development, trauma-related psychopathology symptoms, and psychophysiological and neuroscience processes relevant to child maltreatment. We also review behavioral studies on childhood trauma and autobiographical memory development. We discuss the translation of such research into clinical and legal practice. We conclude with future directions for research, with the hope of moving this crucial area of study forward to spawn new insights. Keywords: memory development; trauma-related psychopathology; emotion regulation; child maltreatment; attachment; children; individual differences
Article
In two experiments, we explored the effects of noticing and remembering change in the misinformation paradigm. People watched slide shows, read narratives containing misinformation about the events depicted in the slide shows, and took a recognition test on which they reported whether any details had changed between the slides and the narratives. As expected, we found a strong misinformation effect overall. In some cases, however, misinformation led to improved recognition, which is opposite the usual finding. Critically, misinformation led to improved recognition of the original event when subjects detected and remembered a change between the original event and the postevent information. Our research agrees with other findings from retroactive-interference paradigms and can be interpreted within the recursive-remindings framework, according to which detecting and remembering change can enhance retention. We conclude that the misinformation effect occurs mostly for witnessed details that are not particularly memorable. In the case of more memorable details, providing misinformation can actually facilitate later recollection of the original events.
Article
The recollective qualities of autobiographical memory are thought to develop over the course of the first two decades of life. We used a 9-year follow-up test of recall of a devastating tornado and of non-tornado-related events from before and after the storm, to compare the recollective qualities of adolescents’ (n = 20, ages 11 years, 11 months to 20 years, 8 months) and adults’ (n = 14) autobiographical memories. At the time of the tornado, half of the adolescents had been younger than age 6. Nine years after the event, all participants provided evidence that they recall the event of the tornado. Adults also had high levels of recall of the non-tornado-related events. Adolescents recalled proportionally fewer non-tornado-related events; adolescents younger than 6 at the time of the events recalled the fewest non-tornado-related events. Relative to adolescents, adults produced longer narratives. With narrative length controlled, there were few differences in the recollective qualities of adolescents’ and adults’ narrative reports, especially in the case of the tornado; the recollective qualities were stronger among adolescents older at the time of the events. Overall, participants in both age groups provided evidence of the qualities of recollection that are characteristic of autobiographical memory.
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How trauma victims remember-or forget-their most horrific experiences lies at the heart of the most bitter controversy in psychiatry and psychology in recent times. Whereas experts maintain that traumatic events-those experienced as overwhelmingly terrifying at the time of their occurrence-are remembered all too well, traumatic amnesia theorists disagree. Although these theorists acknowledge that trauma is often seemingly engraved on memory, they nevertheless maintain that a significant minority of survivors are incapable of remembering their trauma, thanks to mechanisms of either dissociation or repression. Unfortunately, the evidence they adduce in support of the concept of traumatic dissociative amnesia fails to support their claims. The Purpose of this review is to dispel confusions and debunk myths regarding trauma and memory.
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This book presents an exegesis of research and theory concerning the emergence and development of declarative, long-term memory from birth through early adolescence. The book also contains a presentation of a theory that memory is an adaptive mechanism that is used to guide the development and survival of the organism in an initially novel, yet changing environment. The book is divided into four parts. The first part discusses why memory development is important; the second discusses infantile amnesia and autobiographical memory; the third explores a series of key factors that have an impact on early memory development-distinctiveness, emotion, stress, and early memory; and finally, the fourth part gives a detailed presentation of the theory of memory as an adaptation, and applies results to real-world problems. In addition to reviewing the basic-science research on both humans and nonhuman animals, the book is devotes a large portion to clinical and forensic topics, including examining the roles of stress and trauma in memory development, the development of false recollection, memory for traumatic experiences, the effects of depression, PTSD, and dissociation on early memory development, and nonhuman animal research on the nature of infantile amnesia.
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We examined the extent to which three predictors of children's recall, selected on the basis of their theoretical significance, contributed to the prediction of children's recall for the details of dental operative procedures in a diverse sample of 28 children (54–140 months of age). Parents provided information regarding their children's dental histories and preparation for the dental visit. We obtained behavioral indices of stress from video recordings of the procedures and interviewed the children shortly after treatment to assess their memory. In a significant model predicting open-ended recall, measures of prior dental experience and parent discussion emerged as unique predictors, although stress did not add to the prediction. The results attest to the importance of incorporating measures of individual differences in investigations of children's reports of their personal experiences. We discuss the importance of children's interpretations in understanding memory for stressful events.Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Until the latter part of the 20th century, legal doctrines made it almost impossible to successfully prosecute in criminal court a case involving child sexual abuse (CSA), whether the complaint was timely or delayed. Many English-speaking countries have abrogated most formal legal barriers to prosecuting CSA cases, and courts are faced with the singular challenge of adjudicating sexual offenses against children that are reported to have happened years or decades earlier. We conducted analyses of 4,237 criminal complaints of CSA heard in Canadian criminal courts. There were several differences between timely and delayed prosecutions that led us to conclude that delayed prosecutions of CSA are common and due, in part, to the nature of the offense. Offense duration was associated with longer delays to prosecution. When the accused had access to the child through his position in the community, length of delay to prosecution was very long, particularly for male complainants. More research is needed on delayed CSA prosecutions, particularly given an apparent trend for jurisdictions to abolish barriers to criminal prosecutions of CSA that occurred years or decades earlier. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Emotional events are remembered better than neutral events, and this emotion advantage becomes particularly pronounced over time. The time-dependent effects of emotion impact upon recollection rather than on familiarity-based recognition, and they influence the recollection of item-specific details rather than contextual details. Moreover, the amygdala, but not the hippocampus, is crucial for producing these effects. Time-dependent effects of emotion have been attributed to an emotional consolidation process whereby the amygdala gradually facilitates the storage of emotional memories by other medial temporal lobe regions. However, we propose that these effects can be better understood by an emotional binding account whereby the amygdala mediates the recollection of item-emotion bindings that are forgotten more slowly than item-context bindings supported by the hippocampus. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article
The phrase primum non nocere ("first, do no harm") is a well-accepted credo of the medical and mental health professions. Although emerging data indicate that several psychological treatments may produce harm in significant numbers of individuals, psychologists have until recently paid little attention to the problem of hazardous treatments. I critically evaluate and update earlier conclusions regarding deterioration effects in psychotherapy, outline methodological obstacles standing in the way of identifying potentially harmful therapies (PHTs), provide a provisional list of PHTs, discuss the implications of PHTs for clinical science and practice, and delineate fruitful areas for further research on PHTs. A heightened emphasis on PHTs should narrow the scientist-practitioner gap and safeguard mental health consumers against harm. Moreover, the literature on PHTs may provide insight into underlying mechanisms of change that cut across many domains of psychotherapy. The field of psychology should prioritize its efforts toward identifying PHTs and place greater emphasis on potentially dangerous than on empirically supported therapies. © 2007 Association for Psychological Science.
Article
Adults frequently provide compelling, detailed accounts of early childhood experiences in the courtroom. Judges and jurors are asked to decide guilt or innocence based solely on these decades old memories using “common-sense” notions about memory. These notions are not in agreement with findings from neuroscientific and behavioural studies of memory development. Without expert guidance, it is difficult to see how judges and jurors can properly adjudicate the weight of memory evidence in cases involving adult recollections of childhood experiences.
Article
One hundred twenty-nine women with previously documented histories of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked detailed questions about their abuse histories to answer the question "Do people actually forget traumatic events such as child sexual abuse, and if so, how common is such forgetting?" A large proportion of the women (38%) did not recall the abuse that had been reported 17 years earlier. Women who were younger at the time of the abuse and those who were molested by someone they knew were more likely to have no recall of the abuse. The implications for research and practice are discussed. Long periods with no memory of abuse should not be regarded as evidence that the abuse did not occur.
Article
The accuracy of children's reports of alleged sexual abuse during interviews with anatomically correct dolls is the focus of considerable controversy. This study used an analog experience to measure empirically the accuracy of reports in a relevant, but controlled setting: the forensic medical examination for suspected sexual abuse. Twenty-one 3- to 7-year-old children were interviewed about what occurred during previous examinations with open-ended questions, open-ended questions with anatomically correct dolls, and direct questions with the dolls. Children provided significantly more accurate reports and fewer omissions with direct questions using the dolls compared with either of the two open-ended sections, but there was no significant difference in the number of false reports across the three sections of the interview. These results suggest that anatomically correct dolls may bolster the recall of children's memory in the setting of direct questions without prompting false reports. J Dev Behav Pediatr 16:71-76, 1995. Index terms: anatomically correct dolls, sexual abuse.
Article
I describe three legal cases in which I acted as a memory expert witness. The cases contain remarkable accounts of memories. Such memories are by no means unusual in legal cases, are often over retention intervals measured in decades, and contain details the specificity of which is highly unusual. For example, recalling from childhood verbatim conversations, clothes worn by self and others, the weather, actions that at the time could not have been understood, details that could not have been known, precise durations and calendar dates, and much more. I show how our scientific understanding of memory can help courts reach more informed decisions about such fantastical "memories" and how these memories constitute data that as researchers we should seek to understand.
Article
A subset of the published research on mood-congruent memory in normal nondepressed, subclinically depressed, clinically depressed, induced depressed, and induced elated persons is examined with meta-analytic techniques. We estimated the magnitude of mood-congruent recall for these mood states, examined their robustness, and studied within each mood state the extent to which the strength of mood-congruent recall was related to self-referenced encoding and mood intensity. Asymmetric recall favoring positive stimuli appears to be part of the normative pattern of memory performance among individuals that have been labeled normal nondepressed (d(h)BAR = .15; p < .001); subclinically depressed individuals show symmetric recall of positively and negatively valenced material (d(h)BAR = - .02; p > .20). Clinically depressed, induced depressed, and induced elated subjects display mood congruent recall (d(h)BAR = -.19; p < .05; d(h)BAR = - .12, p < .05; d(h)BAR = .08; p < .10). With the exception of induced elated mood, effect estimates derived from different studies are robust in that sampling error accounts for the entire variability among effect estimates obtained from different studies. In studies on induced-elated mood, self-referent processing was associated with stronger mood-congruent recall as compared to other studies. Caveats and implications for future research on mood and memory are discussed.
Article
A sample of 210 published data sets were assembled that (a) plotted amount remembered versus time, (b) had 5 or more points, and (c) were smooth enough to fit at least 1 of the functions tested with a correlation coefficient of .90 or greater. Each was fit to 105 different 2-parameter functions. The best fits were to the logarithmic function, the power function, the exponential in the square root of time, and the hyperbola in the square root of time. It is difficult to distinguish among these 4 functions with the available data, but the same set of 4 functions fit most data sets, with autobiographical memory being the exception. Theoretical motivations for the best fitting functions are offered. The methodological problems of evaluating functions and the advantages of searching existing data for regularities before formulating theories are considered.
Article
The present article reports on the development and validation of a self-report measure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PTDS), that yields both a PTSD diagnosis according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994 DSM-IV) criteria and a measure of PTSD symptom severity. Two-hundred forty-eight participants who had experienced a wide variety of traumas (e.g., accident, fire, natural disaster, assault, combat) were administered the PTSD module of the Structured Clinical Interview (SCID; Spitzer, Williams, Gibbons, & First, 1990), the PTDS, and scales measuring trauma-related psychopathology. The PTDS demonstrated high internal consistency and test-retest reliability, high diagnostic agreement with SCID, and good sensitivity and specificity. The satisfactory validity of the PTDS was further supported by its high correlations with other measures of trauma-related psychopathology. Therefore, the PTDS appears to be a useful tool for screening and assessing current PTSD in clinical and research settings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Tested 392 high school graduates for memory of names and portraits of classmates selected from yearbooks. The retention interval since graduation varied from 2 wks to 57 yrs. Performance was adjusted by multiple regression procedures to control the effects of various conditions on original learning and rehearsal of the material. Results show that identification and matching of names and faces remained approximately 90% correct for at least 15 yrs, even for members of very large classes. Free recall was independent of class size and recognition memory, and declined with negative acceleration by 60% during 48 yrs. This very slow forgetting process is attributed to distribution of practice and overlearning effects far more extreme than those observed in laboratory research. The decline of free recall is associated with the forgetting of the nature of the interpersonal relationship which serves as a retrieval mediator. (33 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Questions have been raised about the accuracy of retrospective self-reported information about childhood sexual abuse. Using data from a prospective-cohorts-design study, a large group of children who were sexually and physically abused or neglected approximately 20 years ago were followed up and compared with a matched control group. Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood sexual abuse was assessed using 4 different measures, completed in the context of a 2-hr in-person interview in young adulthood ( N = 1,196). Results indicate gender differences in reporting and accuracy, substantial underreporting by sexually abused respondents in general, good discriminant validity and predictive efficiency of self-report measures for women, and some support for the construct validity of the measures. Implications for researchers and practitioners are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Using case studies ranging from the Salem Witch Hunt to the Little Rascals Day Care case to illustrate their argument, "Jeopardy in the Courtroom" draws from the vast corpus of scientific research to clarify what is most relevant for evaluating and understanding children's statements made in the legal arena. Bringing good sense to a topic that is as timely as it is controversial, Ceci and Bruck provide prevalence and incidence statistics on child abuse, provide theoretical overviews of memory and suggestibility, trace the history of research on suggestibility from the turn of the century to the present, explore the dynamics of structured and therapeutic interviews with children, examine the topic of recovery of repressed memories of early childhood abuse, evaluate the research regarding age differences in the reliability of children's reports, and propose general guidelines for interviewing children in a sensitive and professional manner. Written in lively, accessible language by acknowledged experts in the field, this book will be an invaluable guide for expert witnesses and all those who work with child witnesses, including therapists, social workers, law enforcement personnel, and lawyers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Children's memories for an experienced and a never-experienced medical procedure were examined. Three- to 13-year-olds were questioned about a voiding cystourethrogram fluoroscopy (VCUG) they endured between 2 and 6 years of age. Children 4 years or older at VCUG were more accurate than children younger than 4 at VCUG. Longer delays were associated with providing fewer units of correct information but not with more inaccuracies. Parental avoidant attachment style was related to increased errors in children's VCUG memory. Children were more likely to assent to the false medical procedure when it was alluded to briefly than when described in detail, and false assents were related to fewer “do-not-know” responses about the VCUG. Results have implications for childhood amnesia, stress and memory, individual differences, and eyewitness testimony.
Article
1996) fitted many simple functions to a large collection of retention data sets. Their search for the mathematical form of the retention function can be simplified by (a) attending to the failures of simple functions, (b) considering the constraints and process assumptions that any psychological theory must obey, and (c) drawing on results from survival theory. Three sets of psychologically plausible assumptions to interpret the form of a retention function are de-scribed. These representations converge on a single functional form, demonstrating the impossibility of determining process purely from empirical fits. A candidate form for an empirical retention function whose parameters separate the various aspects of retention is proposed. These parameters can be used to compare results from different studies. In their analysis of the form of the retention function, Rubin and Wenzel (1996) search for a mathematical equation to de-scribe the empirical relationship between the time since study and the amount of material retained. (See also related work by Wixted & Ebbesen, 1991, and the earlier work reviewed by Rubin & Wenzel.) They assemble an extensive collection of data sets, each describing an empirical retention function R, (in itself a substantial contribution). They then fit each set of data with a variety of mathematical functions r(t), their goal being to select the function or set of functions that best characterizes the disparate data sets. They specifically eschew any theoretical basis for their analysis, asserting that a purely empirical ap-proach is more appropriate for the formative stages of psycho-logical theory. This article points out some limitations to their approach and some ways to simplify their search. I believe that by basing their work entirely on the empirical fit of their functions, and by avoiding what appears to be theorizing, Rubin and Wenzel (1996) have considerably complicated their task. Some minimal consideration of the properties of the forgetting process can both eliminate many candidate functions and suggest others that are more concordant with what must, eventually, be psychologi-cal theory. In my discussion, I first look at how the failure of a simple description is often more informative than the fit of a complex description. Next, I turn to the way that knowledge of This work was supported in part by a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Faculty Research Grant. I thank Eric W. Holman and the members of the Cogfog group for useful discussion.
Article
This investigation focuses on adolescents' recollections of childhood exposure to aversive events and the extent to which such recollections are related to variables from the traditional memory literature. Participants (n=153) were questioned about mother-directed abuse, child-directed abuse and punishment, and nonabusive events documented 6 years earlier. The teens forgot many details of family aggression, particularly when their mothers were the victims. Thirty-four per cent of those exposed to spousal violence failed to remember or report it, and 20% forgot or failed to report child abuse or punishment. Few participants exposed to escalated violence remembered and reported it, although almost all reported less severe aggression. Remembering was positively related to other measures of nontraumatic autobiographical memory, age, negative attitudes about the abuser, and recent exposure to family aggression. The results suggest that recollections of childhood abuse can be explained in part by variables that apply to a wide range of memory tasks. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
The Centrality of Event Scale (CES) measures the extent to which a traumatic memory forms a central component of personal identity, a turning point in the life story and a reference point for everyday inferences. In two studies, we show that the CES is positively correlated with severity of PTSD symptoms, even when controlling for measures of anxiety, depression, dissociation and self-consciousness. The findings contradict the widespread view that poor integration of the traumatic memory into one's life story is a main cause of PTSD symptoms. Instead, enhanced integration appears to be a key issue. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
This experiment tested and supported the hypothesis that events will be suggestively planted in children's memory to the degree that the suggested event is plausible and script-relevant knowledge exists in memory. Nineteen 5- to 7-year-old children and 20 9- to 12-year-old children were read descriptions of two true events and two false events, reported to have occurred when they were 4 years old. One false event described the child lost in a mall while shopping (the plausible false event); the other false event described the child receiving a rectal enema (the implausible false event). The majority of the 39 children (54%) did not remember either false event. However, whereas 14 children recalled the plausible but not the implausible false event, only one child recalled the implausible but not the plausible false event; this difference was statistically significant. Three additional children (all in the younger age group) recalled both false events. Although this pattern of results was consistent for both age groups, the differences were significant for the younger children only. A framework is outlined specifying the cognitive processes underlying suggestively planting false events in memory.
Article
When recollection is difficult, people may use schematic processing to enhance memory. Two experiments showed that a delay between witnessing and recalling a visual sequence increases schematic processing, resulting in stereotypic memory errors. Participants watched a slide show of a man and a woman performing stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent actions, followed by an immediate or delayed memory test. Over a two-day delay, stereotype-inconsistent actions were increasingly misremembered as having been performed by the stereotype-consistent actor (Experiment 1). All the source errors increased, regardless of stereotype consistency, when the wrong actor was suggested. When we merely suggested that ‘someone’ performed an action (Experiment 2), only stereotype-consistent source errors were increased. Although visual scenes are typically well remembered, these results suggest that when memory fades, reliance on schemata increases, leading to increased stereotypic memory errors. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Traumatic experiences in early childhood raise important questions about memory development in general and about the durability and accessibility of memories for traumatic events in particular. We discuss memory for early childhood traumatic events, from a developmental perspective, focusing on those factors that may equally influence memories for both traumatic and non-traumatic events and those factors that may uniquely affect memories of traumatic events and possibly memory development generally. To obtain a more complete understanding of trauma-related memory, we draw on both the scientific and clinical literatures. These literatures indicate commonalities across memories for traumatic and non-traumatic events as well as potentially unique influences on trauma memory.
Article
SUMMARY The effects of context reinstatement as means of enhancing 5- and 6-year-old children's event memory in repeated interviews after a 6-month delay were examined. Children were interviewed immediately after the event (baseline interview) and twice at a 6-month delay, with 24 hours between interviews. The first 6-month interview was conducted in a perfect-context reinstatement (n ¼ 15), imperfect-context reinstatement (n ¼ 16), or no-context reinstatement (n ¼ 15) condition. The second 6-month interview was conducted 24 hours later with no-context reinstatement for all children. Context reinstatement attenuated the effects of delay on recall. The accuracy of the details reported was greater in the perfect-context compared to the imperfect-context and no-context conditions. Details repeated between the immediate-baseline interview and in the first 6-month interview were more accurate than details repeated between the first and second 6-month interview. There was no increase in recall (hypermnesia) across the first and second 6-month interviews in any condition. Practical implications of these findings are discussed. Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
The eyewitness literature often claims that emotional stress leads to an impairment in memory and, hence, that details of unpleasant emotional events are remembered less accurately than details of neutral or everyday events. A common assumption behind this view is that a decrease in available processing capacity occurs at states of high emotional arousal, which, therefore, leads to less efficient memory processing. The research reviewed here shows that this belief is overly simplistic. Current studies demonstrate striking interactions between type of event, type of detail information, time of test, and type of retrieval information. This article also reviews the literature on memory for stressful events with respect to two major theories: the Yerkes-Dodson law and Easter-brook's cue-utilization hypothesis. To account for the findings from real-life studies and laboratory studies, this article discusses the possibility that emotional events receive some preferential processing mediated by factors related to early perceptual processing and late conceptual processing.
Article
Mood-memory phenomena have been studied using laboratory mood induction procedures with nondepressed subjects and with clinically depressed individuals. The present study examined both hedonic and nonhedonic aspects of autobiographical memory in people who had recently attempted suicide by overdose. Attempted suicide subjects, who were required to retrieve specific personal memories to positive or negative cue words, showed biased retrieval when their performance was compared with that of control groups, but the bias was wholly due to delayed retrieval of positive memories rather than speeded retrieval of negative memories. At least part of this effect was due to inappropriate retrieval strategies that yielded general rather than specific memories in the overdose group and have implications for associative network models of emotional memory.