Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Repressed Memory Challenge

The Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital is offering:
$1000 award to anyone who can produce a published case of "repressed memory" (in fiction or non-fiction) prior to 1800.
From the New York Times:
A Study of Memory Looks at Fact and Fiction

The beautiful and deeply religious Madame de Tourvel is so distraught after cheating on her husband in the 1782 novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" that she blacks out the betrayal altogether, arriving at a convent with no idea of what had brought her there. Soon the horror of the infidelity rushes back, in all its incriminating force.

More than two centuries later, she has become part of a longstanding debate about whether the brain can block access to painful memories, like betrayals and childhood sexual abuse, and suddenly release them later on.

In a paper posted online in the current issue of the journal Psychological Medicine, a team of psychiatrists and literary scholars reports that it could not find a single account of repressed memory, fictional or not, before the year 1800.

The researchers offered a $1,000 reward last March to anyone who could document such a case in a healthy, lucid person. They posted the challenge in newspapers and on 30 Web sites where the topic might be discussed. None of the responses were convincing, the authors wrote, suggesting that repressed memory is a "culture-bound syndrome" and not a natural process of human memory.
For a different view, see:

The Recovered Memory Project: 101 Corroborated Cases of Recovered Memory

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