Mixing Memory

There’s No Such Thing as Repression

There’s a pretty good review of the literature on repression, a central concept in the pyschoanalytic tradition, and an important one in many court cases these days, in the current issue of The Review of General Psychology (via Mind Hacks). If you have a subscription, or access to a library with one, you can read the article here. Here’s the abstract:

Does Repression Exist? Memory, Pathogenic, Unconscious and Clinical Evidence, Yacov Rofé

The current dispute regarding the existence of repression has mainly focused on whether people remember or forget trauma. Repression, however, is a multidimensional construct, which, in addition to the memory aspect, consists of pathogenic effects on adjustment and the unconscious. Accordingly, in order to arrive at a more accurate decision regarding the existence of repression, studies relevant to all three areas are reviewed. Moreover, since psychoanalysis regards repression as a key factor in accounting for the development and treatment of neurotic disorders, relevant research from these two domains are also taken into account. This comprehensive evaluation reveals little empirical justification for maintaining the psychoanalytic concept of repression.


  1. #1 6EQUJ5
    April 18, 2008

    From personal experience, I think trauma can be forgotten, but the forgetting is a matter of simple extinction, not active concealment. Not getting reminded of the ordeal allows us to not remember it. However, once reminded, the ordeal gets revived afresh, just like any other behavior that had been extinguished due to disuse and now gets revived.

  2. #2 Chris Schoen
    April 18, 2008

    For those without access, would you will willing to toss out the general nature of the evidence Rofe presents?

  3. #3 Clark
    April 23, 2008

    Ditto. JSTOR doesn’t appear to have the Review of General Psychology.

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