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Brown professor continues debate over recovered memory
Date:7/7/2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] Fueling the debate over the controversial psychiatric disorder known as dissociative amnesia, or repressed memory, Brown University political scientist Ross Cheit is challenging claims by two Harvard University psychiatrists. At issue is how to prove whether the memories of trauma, such as childhood sexual abuse, can be repressed and then resurface later in life. Cheit's paper, co-authored by Rachel E. Goldsmith of Reed College and Mary E. Wood of University of Oregon, appears in the current issue of Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

Cheit is disputing a 2006 contest by Harvard University psychiatrists Harrison G. Pope and James Hudson, both well-known skeptics of repressed memory. They argued that if repressed memory were a genuine natural phenomenon that has always affected people, "then someone, somewhere, in the thousands of years prior to 1800, would have witnessed it and portrayed it in a nonfictional work or in a fictional character." They launched a contest, known as the "Repression Challenge," offering a $1,000 prize to anyone who could identify a pre-1800 literary example of traumatic memory that has been repressed by an otherwise healthy individual, and then recovered.

In 2007, Pope and Hudson published their results in the journal Psychological Medicine, claiming that after reviewing more than 100 responses, none of them met the contest criteria, leading Pope and Hudson to conclude that "dissociative amnesia is not a natural neuropsychological phenomenon, but instead a culture-bound syndrome, dating from the nineteenth century." Their findings drew national media attention.

Cheit said he repeatedly contacted Pope and the journal editors shortly after the article was published, requesting the data from Pope and raising questions about the contest methodology. Several months later,
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Contact: Deborah Baum
deborah_baum@brown.edu
401-863-2478
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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