By: Abdulrahman Zarzar and Omar Hussien
Rawafed Private School
condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior...False Memory Syndrome is especially destructive because the person assiduously avoids confrontation with any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own, encapsulated and resistant to correction. The person may become so focused on memory that he or she may be effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or her life.
A false memory is a memory which is a distortion of an actual experience, or a confabulation of an imagined one. Many false memories involve confusing or mixing fragments of memory events, some of which may have happened at different times but which are remembered as occurring together. Many false memories involve an error in source memory. Some involve treating dreams as if they were playbacks of real experiences. Still other false memories are believed to be the result of the prodding, leading, and suggestions of therapists and counselors. Finally, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has shown not only that it is possible to implant false memories, but that it is relatively easy to do so (Loftus, 1994). A memory of your mother throwing a glass of milk on your father when in fact it was your father who threw the milk is a false memory based upon an actual experience. You may remember the event vividly and be able to "see" the action clearly, but only corroboration by those present can determine whether your memory of the event is accurate. Distortions such as switching the roles of people in one's memory are quite common. Some distortions are quite dramatic, such as the following examples of false memories due to confusion about the source of the memory. A woman accused memory expert Dr. Donald Thompson of having raped her. Thompson was doing a live interview for a television program just before the rape occurred. The woman had seen the program and "apparently confused her memory of him from the television screen with her memory of the rapist" (Schacter, 1996, 114). Jean Piaget, the great child psychologist, claimed that his earliest memory was of nearly being kidnapped at the age of 2. He remembered details such as sitting in his baby carriage, watching the nurse defend herself against the kidnapper, scratches on the nurse's face, and a police officer with a short cloak and a white baton chasing the kidnapper away. The story was reinforced by the nurse and the family and others who had heard the story. Piaget was convinced that he remembered the event. However, it never happened. Thirteen years after the alleged kidnapping attempt, Piaget's former nurse wrote to his parents to confess that she had made up the entire story. Piaget later wrote: "I therefore must have heard, as a child, the account of this story...and projected it into the past in the form of a visual memory, which was a memory of a memory, but false" (Tavris). Remembering being kidnapped when you were an infant (under the age of three) is a false memory, almost by definition. The left inferior prefrontal lobe is undeveloped in infants, but is required for long-term memory. The elaborate encoding required for classifying and remembering such an event cannot occur in the infant's brain. The brains of infants and very young children are capable of storing fragmented memories, however. Fragmented memories can be disturbing in adults. Schacter notes the case of a rape victim who could not remember the...