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Remembering Our Childhood: How Memory Betrays Us [Hardcover]

Karl Sabbagh

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Book Description

March 22 2009
In this fascinating and sometimes disturbing book, the well-known writer Karl Sabbagh looks at psychologists' present understanding of the nature of memory, especially recollections of childhood, and how, in cases of so-called 'recovered memories', the unreliability and flexibility of memory has led to tragic consequences, destroying the lives of whole families. All of us have memories of childhood - that special trip to the fair, or impressions, such as dappled sunlight through rustling leaves seen from the pram. Some people firmly believe that they can recall scenes from the time they were babies. But what does science tell us about the nature of memory, and memories of childhood? In the first part of this book, Sabbagh begins gently with examples he has collected from many interviews of earliest memories, and goes on to look at psychologists' and neuroscientists' understanding of memory. It becomes clear that, whatever individuals might claim, memories of the first two years or so of our lives are simply not accessible to us, while later memories are fragile, yielding to suggestion and our inclination towards a neat story. All too often, our 'memory' of an event arises from what we have been told by a relative. The book then turns to darker territory. A casual remark by a child at a nursery leads to detailed and suggestive questioning of a number of children, resulting in the arrest of a teacher accused of child abuse. She was subsequently released. Some patients with eating and mood disorders undergoing therapy have come to believe, or have been led to believe by the therapist, that their problems stem from being sexually abused as a child - memories allegedly repressed and only 'recovered' under the guidance of the therapist. Such claims have again resulted in wrongful arrest, subsequently overturned, though the damage done to the families is irreparable. Sabbagh has interviewed the distinguished psychologist Elizabeth Loftus and others involvedin blowing the whistle on the 'recovered memory' movement. Throughout, the book is full of quotations from interviews and extracts from transcribed interviews presented at court, making this a powerful and vivid account. While other books have been written on the dangers of the concept of recovered memory, Sabbagh here puts the story in the wider perspective of our growing scientific understanding of memory, and argues strongly for the critical role of scientific evidence in cases involvingthe memory of witnesses.

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Review

Lively investigation. Andrew Robinson, Lancet Never less than fascinating. William Leith, Financial Times A terrific book. Sabbagh's journey into childhood memory shows keen insight into how it works and what it means. He offers a masterfully original and beautifully written perspective on one of the most fundamental aspects of the human mind. Elizabeth F. Loftus, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine

About the Author

Karl Sabbagh was educated at King's College, Cambridge, where he studied experimental psychology. He then spent many years as a documentary television producer for broadcasters in the U.K. and the U.S. before becoming a full-time writer.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a sad story. It has taken her years to recover ... July 9 2014
By Susan Short - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A friend (and her family) were traumatized by a well meaning (I guess) therapist who convinced her that her depression stemmed from being satanically abused as a child. Such a sad story. It has taken her years to recover from those fraudulent "recovered memories” that he encouraged, perhaps placed, in her psyche.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Scientific Approach To Memory And False Memory Syndrome Nov. 4 2012
By Douglas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author notes near the end of the book that "serious scientific research rarely makes it into the public consciousness." How sadly true. It is much easier to read pseudo-science "self help" tripe and let some self-proclaimed therapist (mind-rapist?) brainwash you into what you remember than it is to actually read a scientifically based book on memory like this one. Remembering Our Childhood shows how our memories work, and often don't work, and gives us much better ideas about when to trust them and when to doubt.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars dull and very dated Feb. 1 2013
By Anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
this book starts with an obvious bias rather than looking at the topic opening

also many recent scientific research has been shown to demonstrate the *traumatic* memories cannot be falsely remembered and are often repressed as a coping mechanism, all this is ignored in the book - really the author needs to start again since he has ignored nearly all post-2000 research

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