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Remembering Our Childhood: How Memory Betrays Us
How reliable is memory? For most of us, accurately remembering the details of a novel we read six months ago, or a conversation we had last week, is a difficult task. How much more daunting, then, to recall events from early childhood? This is not an academic question. The alarming rise, over the past two decades, in criminal convictions for child abuse...
How reliable is memory? For most of us, accurately remembering the details of a novel we read six months ago, or a conversation we had last week, is a difficult task. How much more daunting, then, to recall events from early childhood? This is not an academic question. The alarming rise, over the past two decades, in criminal convictions for child abuse based on "recovered" memories makes clear the need for a solid, scientifically based understanding of the nature and trustworthiness of childhood memories. In this fascinating and often disturbing book, Karl Sabbagh looks at psychologists' present understanding of how memory works--and fails to work--particularly in terms of childhood recollections. He shows that, in cases of "recovered memories," the unreliability of memory has had tragic consequences. Many people firmly believe that they can recall scenes from their infancy. But what does science tell us about the childhood memory? Through closely examining memories culled from his interviews, as well as psychologists' and neuroscientists' studies of memory, it becomes clear that, whatever individuals might claim, memories of the first two years of our lives are simply not accessible to us. Even later memories are fragile, yielding to suggestion and our desire for neat stories. Sabbagh goes on to examine real cases where causal remarks by children in nurseries, memories "recovered" in therapy, wild claims of satanic rituals, animal sacrifices, and grisly infant murders, have produced wrongful arrests and destroyed careers and families. Drawing on extensive research, including transcribed interviews presented at court, Remembering Our Childhood presents a scientific understanding of memory and a compelling argument for the critical role of scientific evidence in cases involving the memory of witnesses.
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