Friday, March 05, 2010
Are There Any Meaningful Constitutional Limitations on Legislatively-Mandated Use of Junk Science in Civil Litigation?
By now it is fairly clear that claims of instantaneous "repression" of memories of sex abuse are hokum. But constitutional guarantees generally offer victims of alleged sexual abuse victims little protection against civil claims based on scientific hokum. And legislators seem to care little about the rights of -- or about the guilt or innocence of -- falsely accused sexual wrongdoers. It's a shameful picture all around.
...[M]ost research shows that the more traumatic an event is, the more likely it is to be remembered. Further, there is no clear neurobiological evidence that repression (the mind immediately and automatically erasing a memory) is even possible.
When I first began my graduate work at Harvard, a respected psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School gave me some addvice. He told me that I should avoid studying sexual abuse. It was just too controversial, too sensitive, and too politicized. He said that advocacy would always outweigh truth, and emotions would always override data. At the time I nodded solemnly, wondering what he was getting at. Once I published my research, it made perfect sense.Susan A. Clancey, The Trauma Myth (2009).
All hell broke loose. I was bombarded with accusations that I was hurting victims even more than they had been and that I was a friend of pedophiles.
Stephen Porter, John C. Yuille, and Darrin R. Lehman, The Nature of Real, Implanted, and Fabricated Memories for Emotional Childhood Events: Implications for the Recovered Memory Debate 23 Law and Human Behavior 517 (1999):
A central issue in the recovered memory debate is whether it is possible to "remember" a highly emotional incident which never occurred. The present study provided an in-depth investigation of real, implanted, and fabricated (deceptive) memories for stressful childhood events. We examined whether false memories for emotional events could be implanted and, if so, whether real, implanted, and fabricated memories had distinctive features. A questionnaire was sent to participants' parents asking about six highly emotional, stressful events (e.g., serious animal attack) which the participant may have experienced in childhood. Next, across three sessions, interviewers encouraged participants (N = 77) to "recover" a memory for a false event using guided imagery and repeated retrieval attempts. In the first interview, they were asked about one real and one false event, both introduced as true according to their parents. In two subsequent interviews, they were reinterviewed about the false event. Finally, after the third inquiry about the false event, participants were asked to fabricate a memory report. Results indicated that 26% of participants "recovered" a complete memory for the false experience and another 30% recalled aspects of the false experience. Real, implanted, and fabricated memories differed on several dimensions (e.g., confidence, vividness, details, repeated details, coherence, stress). These findings have important implications for the debate over recovered and false memories.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
What has made our universities so distinguished is not the quality of our undergraduate education. Other systems of higher learning, including our own liberal arts colleges, compete well against our great universities in transmitting knowledge to undergraduates. At its best, undergraduate education in the United States is exceptionally good, and at its worst it is very poor, but this is simply not what distinguishes our great universities from lesser ones. Nor is it our training of professional graduate students that makes our universities the greatest in the world, although we do that very well in comparison with many other nations. In short, although the transmission of knowledge is a core mission of our universities, it is not what makes them the best institutions of higher learning in the world.
We are the greatest because our universities are able to produce a very high proportion of the most important fundamental knowledge and practical research discoveries in the world.