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Recovering memories that never left

Some people who spontaneously recover memories of childhood sexual abuse have forgotten that they recalled the abuse earlier

9:15am, December 5, 2008

There may be no single, simple explanation for reports of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. Witness the first evidence that people who report such recall display either of two cognitive profiles, one signaling a susceptibility to retrieving false memories and the other a tendency to have forgotten earlier recollections of actual abuse.

Members of the first group typically salvage child sex-abuse memories gradually via psychotherapy that includes hypnosis and other suggestive techniques, say psychologist Elke Geraerts of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and her colleagues. Those in the second group suddenly recover memories of abuse, due to unexpected reminders of what happened, the researchers assert in the January Psychological Science.

The new research is based on the results of memory tests taken by 120 middle-aged volunteers, mostly women. The work reveals that different ways of remembering and forgetting correspond to how people rec

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