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Divide Between Science and Practice: Two New Books

FMSF News Alert - April 24, 2013

Dear Friends,

Two new books illustrate the great divide that continues to exist between what is known scientifically about memory and what is still promoted by some clinicians.

Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners

(Originally published in 1991. Revised and Updated)
Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D.
Health Communications (2011)

A newly accused person called our attention to this book. It is one his daughter read.

The author is a clinical psychologist who specializes in "covert incest" and sexual addiction. He is the director of a practice that bears his name and is also a national lecturer, according to the short biography at the end of the book. Adams explains in the introduction that covert incest is a situation in which "a parent turns a child into a surrogate husband or wife but does not touch then sexually." The author educates the reader about situations he considers examples of covert incest and how to treat it.

This book is easy to read, comprised of case histories that are composites the author designed to illustrate the traits of covert incest survivors. The book has s bibliography and an index but no notes. There are no research references to support the author’s many claims. The Bibliography contains names familiar to most FMSF readers: Bass and Davis (Courage to Heal), Alice Miller (Drama of the Gifted Child), John Bradshaw (On the Family), Wendy Maltz (The Sexual Healing Journey), Charles Whitfield (Boundaries and Relationships).

We need say no more that provide a quote from page 72.
"Rebecca’s struggles with an eating disorder were another consequence of the sexually charged relationship her father had with her. Although she suppressed the memory of her father’s seduction, her body continued to carry the feelings and sensations of this trauma."

***

Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.

Charles Fernyhough
HarperCollins (2012)

This book by a Reader in Psychology at Durham University, UK (professor) is a delight to read. Fernyhough explains the nature of "autobiographical memory" with a brilliant melding of science, literature, and personal memories. It contains a large index and endnotes that support virtually every claim and the New Scientist listed it as a Science Book of the Year.

The personal stories that Fernyhough relates are the base for explaining the reconstructive nature of memory. Throughout the book, readers see examples that demonstrate that memory may be less about how we store and retrieve a memory that how we adjust a memory to fit our current circumstances. And that, indeed, may likely alter the form of the memory for future recollection.

There are several chapters that deal with the issues of trauma and memory and claims of repressed memories. Fernyhough does a masterful at explaining how the subjective experiences that so many people have of recovering a memory mesh with scientific understanding of memory. He explains in layman’s terms how it is possible to have a vivid memory of something that never happened.

***

Perhaps it is unfair to write about these books on the same page. All they truly have in common is that the authors want to explain something to the reader and write for a popular audience. The first book is about what the author sees as a serious clinical problem. The second book is about the current scientific understandings of reconstructive nature of memory. The first book relies on the author’s clinical insight. The second relies on the foundation of science. Because the author of the first book did not base his conclusions on outcome studies or science, he is able to write nonsense about memory, the only topic in the book for which we made a judgment. Nevertheless, the books seem to exemplify the great divide that exists in psychology between those who explain based on science and those who do not.

We highly recommend Pieces of Light. Elizabeth Loftus writes about it: "A beautifully written, absorbing read -- a fascinating journey through the latest science of memory."

Pam