Research defended

March 31, 2000

Those angry responses (Readers' reactions, THES, March 24) to my article in the previous week's issue (Soapbox, THES, March 17) warrant brief comment.

The foremost issue involves the research I have conducted with my colleagues. The responses imply that this can be dismissed as being of no scientific value.

In fact, our survey of therapists was funded by the UK government-backed Economic and Social Research Council. The research proposal was reviewed by independent scientists with relevant expertise and deemed worthy of substantial funding. The end-of-award report was also evaluated favourably by independent expert reviewers. Two papers have so far been published from the study, both in peer-reviewed journals.

For readers who wish to judge for themselves the merits of the research, the references are: Andrews, B. et al, (1999) "Characteristics, context and consequences of memory recovery among adults in therapy", British Journal of Psychiatry, 175, 141-144; and Andrews, B. et al, (2000) "The timing, triggers and qualities of recovered memories in therapy", British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39, 11-26.

I should also like to draw attention to L. Weiskrantz's denial of my assertion that it is well-nigh impossible to convince people about an unpleasant and uncommon childhood experience such as being given an enema.

This assertion was based on evidence from a well-controlled experiment published by Kathy Pezdek, an internationally respected expert on child eyewitness testimony (Pezdek, et al, 1997). None of the research participants could be convinced of a false event involving an enema. This and other published research shows that although it is possible to implant false memories in a minority of participants, the more implausible the false event, the more difficult it is to implant.

Bernice Andrews Senior lecturer in psychology Royal Holloway University of London

The false memory syndrome debate can be followed at www. uk

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