How origins of the false memory movement

limerick hellfire club_edited
Limerick hellfire club

Please be patient regardining this bog page. It is very very difficult to write about the history of the false memory movement. They have done their best to make sure that interested parties are kept busy arguing about the workings of memory. They have not encouraged inquiries into their own structure and intentions, unless these were overwhelmingly positive.

According to their own story there lots of distressed parents around the USA who were falsely accused of sexual abuse. They got together as a support group and suddenly conjured up groups across the USA, an academic advisory board, a huge PR budget and scientific theories about a new syndrome

According to newspaper reports it was started in the USA by accused parents. Accused parents had an organisation called VOCAL which seems to have been absorbed into the false memory organisation.

But according to the book “Try to remember” there were other reasons for starting the organisation. The author of this book ( who also campaigns to stop that transsexuals from having surgery ) writes in this book that for him the issue began when he became aware that a rival psychiatric clinic in Baltimore was treating patients for Multiple Personality Disorder .

During this period psychiatric services in the USA were under tremendous pressure because of the changes that the Reagan Administration had made in the field of mental health.It was impossible for people without private insurance or medicare to get the quality of psychiatric treatment that they had done previously and competition between mental health facilities was extreme. Many facilities were forced to close

The economic rivalry and economic competition between hospitals that treated patients with trauma and dissocoation and those that didn\t was intense

But the writer of “Try to remember” had another reason for his opposition to the treatment of what are now known as associative disorders. He dedicated the book to a man called Martin Orne, who had together with another member of the false memory association  had published work on how false memories could be “implanted” through hypnosis. They held that dissociation was not caused by childhood trauma.

Martin Orne had also worked for naval funded research projects and it seem to be through this contact that he met the man who coined the word “false memory syndrome.  This man also had a naval funded research contract.

Together with other board members who were associated with Skeptical Associations and Cult Exit work they not only set up the false memory group but also supported patient who were displeased with their treatment in dissociation clinics to sue the hospitals where they had been treated for very large sums of money. Several psychologists and psychiatrists lost their licence to practice.

In the UK the situation was different in the 1990’s. Treatment for dissociative disorders was almost non existent in this country and third party civil cases were not possible in the UK. The UK false memory group was not so focused on debunking Multiple Personality Disorder as in the USA.

However this may be changing.

Since the exposure of Jimmy Savile there has been a push in the UK for better treatment for survivors of sexual abuse – including organised abuse. It is likely that some of this treatment will involve theories of dissociation.

This also comes at a time when NHS services are being privatised and there will be issues about what forms of therapeutic treatment will be available.

My current thinking is that the recent media exposure about a moral panic related to satanic ritual abuse is related to this. The aim is to ridicule satanic abuse claims in order to ridicule ALL therapeutic treatment that is dissociation related.

There is one legal case in the USA that is particular relevant here.

This was a case about a woman who had died of cancer. Before she died she had not been in contact with her family for many years and had changed her name. After her death her mother applied for access to her medical records and sued a psychiatric hospital where she had been a patients. The medical records contained detail of things that the woman had said in therapy. Details of this abuse were supposed to held to have been “implanted” by therapists. The hospital first won the case and then on appeal they lost.

In the UK there is a similar situation at the moment. The UK false memory group is backing such a claim.

Ironically, the current UK “satanic panic” seems to be udergoing “implantation” by skeptical societies

PS My apologies that I have not included references to this blog post. They will come later.

On the 6th June UK a conference/ workshop was held on Satanic panic

Some people took pictures of the slides presented and put them on twitter:-

( they will apparently be available to the public later )

In the meantime Morgan Beck has written down some extracts from the slides

Apparently there are external drivers and internal drivers which lead towards satanic panics:-

External Drivers

1) Scandals: new era of trawling – police looking for victims rather than suspects

2) Social influences: psychotherapy, the survivor movement, victim culture and the (re)creation of identity

3) Role models: survivor groups “professional victims”.

4) Confirmation bias on the part of investigators

5) Suggestive, over zealous interviewing by others convinced that abuse has occurred

6) Ideology: feminist, child protection ethos: women / children don’t lie

7) new ideology of consent ( “affirmative  consent” ) leads to misfortunes about legal definitions of sexual assault and confusion.

8) “they don’t know they are victims”

Internal drivers

1) Genuine victim makes genuine error e.g. mistaken identity of assailant in identity parade

2) a stressful event with a bad outcome e.g childbirth where a baby dies or in damaged – parents disparate for explanation may mis-remember crucial events or details

3) Self -serving lies ( e.g. alibis, revenge, financial gain, attention seeking, child custody contact disputes ( e.g. Hamstead SRA case being extreme example )

4) Explanatory narrative may not reflect historical truth but gives meaning to individuals’ existence ( Davis, Woodiwiss, Haaken, Clancy )

5) Mental illness, brain damage, personality disorder or learning disabilities leading to confabulation

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There was also discussion about remembering at times of stress. is it different from other types of remembering?

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There was reference to an article in the Daily Telegraph (29: 12: 2014 ) that experts warn that lying on Facebook can lead to False Memories. A fifth of young people admit their online psyche bears little resemblance to reality. The source for this was Richard Sherry.: The society for neuro-psychoanalysis.

There was information about the detail that people can remember from their childhood:-

Detailed accounts from childhood

1) Over and above childhood amnesia, as adults we remember very little from before the age of 7 and what we do remember tends to be qualitatively different from our other memories

2) It is rare for children ( aged 5 and 6 ) to make references to temporal attributes of events ( time, date duration, sequence of events )

3) Adult accounts of childhood details “exceed the limits of what a child would be capable of at the time that the event was encoded. ( Strange and Hague: 2013 :p441 )

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There also seems to have been a distinction made between “recovered memory therapy” and CBT.

One of the lecturers said that he had enrolled in a Psychotherapy course ( non CBT ) to learn more about what he sees and an “industry”

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