Can you nonbelieve it: What happens when you do not believe in your memories?

Jane Wang, Henry Otgaar, Tom Smeets, Mark L. Howe, Harald Merckelbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional


Human memory is susceptible to errors and distortions. This may sound cliché (Loftus, 2005), but the practical meaning of this is illustrated by, for example, the devastating effects of mistaken eyewitness identifications (Sagana, Sauerland, & Merckelbach, 2012), the far-reaching consequences of innocents who falsely confess to crimes they never committed (Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004), and the tragedy of adults who erroneously come to believe that they recovered very early memories of abuse experiences (Loftus, 1993). As for these alleged recovered memories: there was a fierce debateamong psychologists, therapists and even legal professionals in the 1990s (Howe & Knott, in press) about their authenticity, a debate that was even characterized as the “memory wars” (Patihis, Ho, Tingen, Lilienfeld, & Loftus, 2014). It took place against a background of hundreds of lawsuits by adults against their parents because of the alleged abuse memories from childhood that had been “recovered” during therapy in adulthood (Lipton, 1999). Some therapists and clinical psychologists argued that such recovered memories are essentially correct and surface after repression has been lifted due to therapeutic interventions (e.g., hypnosis, sedating drugs). Many researchers, however, contended that recovered memories might, in fact, be pseudo-memories produced by risky techniques such as hypnosis and guided imagery (Howe & Knott, in press; Lambert & Lilienfeld, 2007).
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Inquisitive Mind
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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