According to Pezdek, Blandon-Gitlin, and Gabbay (2006), imagination can induce false autobiographical memories. When plausible events are imagined, they elicit false memories which are not common in implausible events. They categorized childhood sexual abuse as being an implausible event questioning therapists’ claims of inducing false memories.
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The best measure for plausibility could be gotten after understanding Pezdek et al.’s design. Personal plausibility was the dependent variable in their study where the participants were to rate the likelihood that they personally experienced certain types of events at age 10. The independent variable was general plausibility to do with how common the events were in a general population of students from where the participants were drawn. The dependent variable was measured twice: before and after the imagination task. It was observed that the rating for personal plausibility increased with the imagination task. For the independent variable, the participants were asked to gauge the likelihood that a person with psychological disorder suffered childhood sexual abuse. This question was asked to the general population as opposed to asking an individual who would have personalized the question.
Recovery from repression and traumatic events is common and a possibility if the studies have done is anything to go by. 495 participants who included 273 females were selected from Denmark. A telephone omnibus survey was used to collect data. A rating scale was used and there were no correct or incorrect answers. About 80% of the respondents felt that forgotten childhood sexual abuse was plausible or very plausible. The results indicate that a forgotten childhood sexual abuse have effects on current behavior. As such the general plausibility of this scenario is high going by Pezdek et al. (2006).
The real picture is however not brought out as surveys underestimate prevalence. Actually, 90% of sexual abuse cases are never reported. This could portend severe emotional problems later in life. Therapists have tended to relate to the client’s problems with childhood sexual abuse. Clients are told that most of the problems they experience emanate from childhood sexual abuse. To conclude, Pezdek et al.’s (2006) results hold water and remain valid. The effort used in therapy is more intensive and prolonged. The study adds to the cumulating evidence that the risk of inducing false memories in psychotherapy is substantial.
Rubin, D. C., & Berntsen, D. (2007). People believe it is plausible to have forgotten memories of childhood sexual abuse. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(4), 776–778.