[ PCO Home Page ] [ Table of Contents of NEWSLETTER # 66 ]

........ published in NEWSLETTER # 66

by Professor J.D. Read, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge/Alberta (Canada)

The ASI brought together 96 experts with a variety of perspectives on memory with the long-term aim of advancing scientific understanding of the wide-spread controversy regarding "recovered memories" of childhood sexual abuse. Most participants were psychologists (including practitioners and clinical, cognitive, and neuroscience researchers), but many were anthropologists, legal scholars, and experts from other fields relevant to the topic. At the outset, participants were encouraged to avoid polarized positions and agreed that it is possible for people to recover essentially accurate memories of long-forgotten childhood traumas and for people to develop false beliefs in childhood traumas that dit not actually occur. The ASI did not, of course, eliminate differences in perspective, but it did succeed in enhancing mutual understanding and respect, promoting serious dialogue, and fostering future collaborative research efforts.

The program featured fourteen major lectures, each of which was followed by a question period, a commentary by another lecturer, and a discussion period. The lecturers/commentators were Chris R. Brewin, John Briere, Maggie Bruck, Christine A. Courtois, Michael D. Kopelman, D. Stephan Lindsay, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Steven J. Lynn, Sherrill Mulhern, J. Don Read, Arthur P. Shimamura, Willem A. Wagenaar, Cathy S. Widom, and Rachel Yehuda. Ronan E. O'Carroll provided the commentary on Rachel Yehuda's lecture. The program also included fifteen brief papers, three poster sessions, a legal panel, and in addition to these relatively conventional components, working groups were struck in three areas: Cognitive/Neuroscience Research, Clinical Research, and Clinical Practice Guidelines. These working groups provided opportunities for participants to engage in extended discussions of particular focal issues.

This 600-page edited book (NATO ASI SERIES A291) is unusual in three ways. First, it is one of the first books to bring together substantial contributions (including new research data not yet published elsewhere) by world-renowned experts. Second, contributors strove to avoid the combative and polarized style that has characterized much of the controversy regarding recovered memories, and focused on addressing the numerous challenging scientific and practical questions at hand. Third, the book includes all of the presentations and discussions made at the ASI as well as written versions of some of the ASI's more dynamic components, such as selected extracts from the tape-recorded discussion periods that followed each lecture/commentary and reports from the three working groups. This is a remarkable resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of the many complex issues of the controversy regarding recovered memories. The book should also provide a template and a foundation for future scientific exchanges on a variety of controversial topics within behavioural and medical sciences such as: childhood trauma resulting from family violence, urban or international warfare and terrorism; secondary traumatisation of disaster relief workers and mental health professionals; the pathology of human memory; and interview and sampling techniques by which information may be obtained from both children and adults in a scientifically sound and objective manner.
Reference books: A291, D47

[ PCO Home Page ]