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Tilting at Windmills: Why Attacks on Repression Are Misguided

Brewin, CR; (2020) Tilting at Windmills: Why Attacks on Repression Are Misguided. Perspectives on Psychological Science 10.1177/1745691620927674. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

In the November 2019 issue of Perspectives, Otgaar et al. argued that the “memory wars” persist and that “the controversial issue of repressed memories is alive and well and may even be on the rise” (p. 1072). Their thesis overlooked the well-established consensus that recovered memories of trauma may be genuine, false, or a mixture of the two and instead focused on a disputed mechanism: unconscious repression. A formal cocitation analysis identified the major publications mentioning repressed memories, but none endorsed a theory of unconscious repression. Studies of beliefs about repressed memories by the general public and other groups do not support Otgaar et al.’s thesis either because these studies did not adequately assess the key ideas defining the theory of repression. Clinical evidence is consistent with recovered memories occurring in many different forms of therapy, including ones that do not use suggestive techniques or rely on the concept of repression. Thus, Otgaar et al. have proposed the existence of a problem for which little objective evidence can be found. Continuing theoretical uncertainties about the mechanisms responsible for forgetting are less important than the general recognition since the 1990s that suggestive therapy and attempts to exhume memories are hazardous and generally inappropriate.

Type: Article
Title: Tilting at Windmills: Why Attacks on Repression Are Misguided
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1745691620927674
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691620927674
Language: English
Additional information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: memory, trauma, repression
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110346
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