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 Association. 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.