This short page provides links to articles, a commentary, and a presentation that are very informative and clarifying.
U-Turn on Memory Lane, by Mike Stanton, published in the July/August 1997 Columbia Journalism Review, traces the stark reversal in the major media’s portrayal of recovered memories of sexual abuse, which corresponded to the rise of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and its aggressive public relations efforts.
The Memory War, by Katie Heaney, published in the January 6, 2021 New York Magazine, is a mainstream media piece that finally tells the story of the founding of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and some of the damage done by the organization and its misinformation campaign over more than two decades.
Kate Price Remembers Something Terrible, by Janelle Nanos, published in the July 28, 2022 Sunday Magazine of the Boston Globe. Meticulously researched for 10 years and beautifully written, this piece is full of suspense, compassion, and dignity. A truly great work of journalism and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing, with clarity about the impacts of early childhood sexual abuse and trafficking by a parent and the nature of traumatic memories, including those involving amnesia and delayed recall.
‘The Only Memory I Had Was Getting Into the Car,’ by Irin Carmon and Olivia Natt, released as the October 15, 2019 episode of The Cut on Tuesdays podcast from Gimlet Media and New York Magazine’s The Cut. Tells the remarkable and meticulously researched case of Allison Turkos. She was gang-raped by a Lyft driver and two other men, but could not remember the rape the next morning despite feeling genital pain and seeing that her Lyft ride had taken her far away from the route home. She could not remember the car ride or the rape for many months, despite really wanting and trying to do so. Eventually, a second pair of investigators with the NYC Police Department had the competence and creativity to arrange the right contexts and cues that enabled her to recall memories that had been stored in her brain all along. Also released on Spotify as “Your Driver Is Here.”
The False Memory Syndrome at 30: How Flawed Science Turned into Conventional Wisdom, by Joshua Kendall, published in February 2021 by Mad in America: Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice, includes in-depth histories of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the mainstream media’s credulous and enthusiastic complicity with its misinformation campaign.
Commentary: Response to 17 February 2003 Media Reports on Loftus’ Bugs Bunny Study, by Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon cognitive psychologist, lucidly shows how the media continued (and continues) to give the public biased, incomplete and deceptive accounts of research by those who claim it is easy to implant false memories of sexual abuse and that recovered memories are likely false. (See also, Creating memories for false autobiographical events in childhood: A systematic review, by Chris Brewin and Bernice Andrews in 2016)
Misleading and confusing media portrayals of memory research is a presentation by Dr. Freyd at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 2004. She addresses these same issues and presents research on the effects of such media coverage.
Finally, see my discussion of Elizabeth Loftus, including how the media has dropped the ball in it’s coverage of her on this issue, for example by not knowing or mentioning that her own research has found that people can lose access to and then recover memories of sexual abuse.