Forgetting Trauma?

Richard J. Mcnally, Susan A. Clancy and Heidi M. Barrett

in Memory and Emotion

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195158564
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848126 | DOI:

Series: Series in Affective Science

Forgetting Trauma?

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This chapter examines the conditions under which traumatic events are remembered or forgotten, focusing on the frequently espoused belief that all trauma will be forgotten — a belief presumably based on the notion that too much emotion hurts memory. In particular, it reviews the evidence relevant to the debate about the extent to which trauma victims typically repress and then later recover memories of the traumatic event. In examining the reported evidence — from victims of childhood sexual abuse, concentration-camp survivors, war veterans, and alien “abductees” — the chapter distinguishes among phenomena that have more often collapsed in discussions of repressed memory as well as recovered memory. It argues that the forgetting of traumatic events can arise from quite “normal” phenomena — such as the absence of rehearsal or the initial lack of attention in some aspects of the event — instead of special mechanisms of motivated repression. The chapter also considers the laboratory research on forgetting mechanisms employed by people who have suffered through various types of trauma.

Keywords: trauma; forgetting; emotion; memory; traumatic events; sexual abuse; repressed memory; recovered memory; normal phenomena; motivated repression

Chapter.  11875 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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