Help we re being repressed Presenting the controversy on

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					                                                                                      Help, we're being repressed!
                                     Presenting the controversy on psychological repression in the classroom
                                                                                               L. Brooke Bennett-Day
                                                                                                      Wesleyan College

   Repression in the Psychology classroom
• Although many psychoanalytic ideas tend to be involved more frequently in college courses outside Psychology departments than within
them, repression could be included in a variety of commonly-taught courses (General, Forensic, Personality, Memory & Learning, Cognitive,
History & Systems, Research Methods, etc.).
•As with other controversial topics, repression touches on issues (sexual or physical abuse, arrests based on recovered memories, ethical
issues in regard to therapy and research) that may be sensitive to students and can provoke heated discussion.
•Classroom discussion necessitates some understanding of the terms being discussed. Are your students starting off with the same
conceptualization of the term as you are? In a General Psych sample (N = 25) 64% of students claimed some familiarity with the concept of
repression. Descriptions matched the correct psychological concept in 25% of those students; other common descriptions focused on
political or social repression. A majority of students (88%) from an upper-level psychology course (N = 16) provided the correct
                                                                                                                                                                         Scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) in which
psychological definition of repression.                                                                                                                                 villagers are claiming repression of the non-psychological type.

      Background                                                                                                                                       Topics for discussion
                                                                           Students with a clear definition of psychological
               • Freud originally included the concept of                    repression (N = 19) did indicate a belief in its                 •How does Freud’s original concept of repression fit with the
               repression as one of his defense mechanisms                    existence (M =5.36 on a 7-point scale; SD =                     current uses of motivated forgetting, directed forgetting, and
               (See Knafo, 2009, for a detailed review). He                  1.16), as did those students reporting a more                    recovered memory?
               described repression as occurring when a                     vague definition of psychological repression (M
                                                                                                                                              •Examine the impact of the recovered memory debate on the
               thought is made unavailable to the conscious                 =6.13, SD = .99), although there was variation
                                                                                                                                              legal field. This could include the Daubert standard , delayed
               mind; that thought, however, would still                                     (range from 3-7).
                                                                                                                                              reporting statutes, and the use of hypnosis.
               affect outward behavior.
 •Opposition to repression existed early on, through the views of experimental                             •Follow some of the back-and-forth of the recovered memory debate as documented in the
 psychologists of the time. Although Freudian theories originated in case studies,                         literature. See the reference addendum for discussions between two sets of researchers.
 contemporary psychologists in a variety of fields have sought to substantiate                             •What impact would belief or disbelief in repression (recovered memory, motivated forgetting,
 various findings using empirical methods.                                                                 etc.) mean for a clinician? What ethical issues in regard to treatment and responsibilities to a
 •Increasing emphasis on therapy as a practice brought with it a discussion of                             client should clinicians consider?
 varying perspectives. Likewise, the cognitive revolution added data on the                                •Are there individual differences that might increase a person’s propensity for repression?
 workings of memory.                                                                                       Alternately, might there have been historical influences that led to repression in Freud’s day
 •The “memory wars” of the 1980s/90s brought                                                               that would not be in place now?
 the concept of psychological repression back
 to the surface. Defendants convicted on the                                                                  Major references            A reference addendum will be available electronically.
 basis of a recovered memory questioned the
 appropriateness of certain therapy                                                                        Alpert, J. Brown, L., Ceci, S., Cortois, C. Loftus, E. & Ornstein, P. (1996). Final conclusions of the
 techniques. Conclusions from the APA working                                                                 APA working group on investigation of memories of childhood abuse. In Working group on
 group on the topic served to further reinforce          Pictured: (L)The Courage to Heal (Bass & Davis,      investigation of memories of childhood abuse (pp.1-14). Washington, DC: American Psychological
                                                         1998); (R) Elizabeth Loftus, who was at the
 a split in belief among psychologists.                  forefront of the recovered memory debate in
                                                         psychology and law
                                                                                                           Knafo, D. (2009). Freud’s memory erased. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 26(2), 171-190.