Shoddy science

November 7, 1997

IN HER recently publicised survey of therapists, ("Childhood trauma rings true", THES, October 31), Bernice Andrews claims to have found proof for "recovered memories". Far from it.

She and her colleagues interviewed only therapists. They did not speak directly to anyone who purportedly recovered memories, nor to those accused of sexual abuse on their basis.

This is shoddy science, based on the hearsay evidence of the very people who encouraged people to believe in massive repression in the first place.

The fact that some of the initial "memories" arose outside therapy is hardly surprising, given the number of books, television programmes, and media publicity given to "recovered memories" in the 1990s.

The main question is: can people engage in massive repression? Can they forget years of traumatic events and then recall them later. The answer is almost certainly "no".

In three years of research, I failed to find even one convincing case. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Dr Andrews's study is extraordinary only for its bad science.

Mark Pendergrast Author, Victims of Memory Essex Junction Vermont United States

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