Appendix B: Features of Historical Memory According to Loftus and Bruhn

Differences in descriptions based on
real versus suggested memories

Loftus (1989); Schooler, Gerhard, & Loftus (1986)

1. Comparing written descriptions of real and suggested memories, Loftus found that real memories reflect more perceptual processing, greater sensory detail, greater mention of geographic components.  It should be noted, however, that therapists are already aware of this criterion, and some people will now deliberately insert sensory details into their accounts.  The recovery movement literature has also already taught alleged victims that such details are important.

2. Real memory usually reflects more mention of cognitive or other internal processing, e.g., the subject's thoughts, emotions, reactions.

3. In Loftus' research, she found that subjects who were relying on suggested memories tended to use more verbal hedges, e.g., I think so, I believe, I'm not sure.

4. Loftus also found that descriptions of suggested memories contained more words than those of real memories.


Bruhn, 1990

1. Most early memories are fantasies in which the individual re-experiences the memory as an outside observer.  In the non-historical memory, the person will see himself as though he were another person and he, the observer, were looking on from some other position.  Often, it is viewed from above (Bruhn, 1990, p. 5).  This is evidence of imagination and construction.  However, in my view, one should also rule out evidence for use of psychological defenses of depersonalization, derealization or dissociation in such cases.

2. When a person experiences himself as being there, seeing the scene through his own eyes, he should be asked how large other objects or people around him appear.  Determine whether he is viewing the experience from a child's viewpoint and eye level.  If he says something like, I crept over, this may reflect actual reexperiencing.

3. If he is viewing and interpreting objects as an older child or adult, the memory is more likely to reflect reconstruction.  A person with a verified memory at age one described his father as ... a two-legged thing with a lot of hair on its face rather than my father.  He would not describe them as my mother and my father which requires reprocessing at an older age.  He would not have concepts that an older child has, e.g., my mother and my sister were trying on clothes (p. 7).

4. Extremely early recollections ...must, by their very nature, be confusing as originally experienced because infants and toddlers lack the sophistication in their schemas to describe something that happened to them as they would if they were adults looking back at the scene (p.7).

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