People believe it is plausible to have forgotten memories of childhood sexual abuse.

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Pezdek, Blandon-Gitlin, and Gabbay (2006) found that perceptions of the plausibility of events increase the likelihood that imagination may induce false memories of those events. Using a survey conducted by Gallup, we asked a large sample of the general population how plausible it would be for a person with longstanding emotional problems and a need for psychotherapy to be a victim of childhood sexual abuse, even though the person could not remember the abuse. Only 18% indicated that it was implausible or very implausible, whereas 67% indicated that such an occurrence was either plausible or very plausible. Combined with Pezdek et al.s' findings, and counter to their conclusions, our findings imply that there is a substantial danger of inducing false memories of childhood sexual abuse through imagination in psychotherapy.







David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.

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