Writing Assignment 2

OCW Scholar

« Previous

Topic: Admission of a "recovered" memory in a court case.

The issue of recovered memories touches on topics related to memory research, clinical psychology, and legal interpretation of scientific evidence.

Imagine you are a judge. A 24 year-old adult woman accuses her father of sexual abuse 20 years ago on the basis of a "recovered memory" – she did not remember the abuse until last month, but now feels that she has a clear memory for the abuse. Her lawyer wants the woman to testify about her recovered memory of abuse. The lawyer defending her father argues that scientists have shown that such recovered memories cannot be real memories, and that this testimony should not be allowed from the woman because it may emotionally bias the jury against the father. The woman's lawyer counters with the argument that recent scientific evidence supports the possibility that the recovered may be accurate, and that the woman should be able to present this testimony to the jury.

What is your ruling as a judge – should the woman be allowed to present her recovered memory of abuse to the jury? What is the scientific evidence that favors allowing the woman to testify about the recovered memory, and what is the scientific evidence that favors not allowing her to testify about the recovered memory?

In your paper, explain the controversy about recovered memories, summarize evidence for and against the likely accuracy of recovered memories, and explain how you would rule and why.

Use only the four sources listed below as sources of evidence. In addition, you may optionally use material from the textbook.

Your paper should be 2–3 pages long, double-spaced, 12 point font.


Loftus, E. "Creating False Memories." Scientific American 277, no. 3 (1997): 70–5.

Loftus, E. "The Reality of Repressed Memories." American Psychologist 48 (1993): 518–37.

Geraerts, E., et al. "The Reality of Recovered Memories." Psychological Science 18, no. 7 (2007): 564–8. (This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.PDF)

Geraerts, E., et al. "Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying Recovered-Memory Experiences of Childhood Sexual Abuse." Psychological Science 20, no. 1 (2009): 92–8.


« Previous