The Construction of Memory

A conference in association with the False Memory Archive

A conference in association with the False Memory Archive

Speakers Professor Christopher French, Professor Dany Nobus, Dr. Fiona Gabbert, Professor Martin Conway and artist Sharon Kivland respond to Alasdair Hopwood’s False Memory Archive exhibition by reflecting on the nature of autobiographical memory. The conference will also ask how recent research has taken account of Freud’s work in relation to his understanding of the variable nature of personal memory.

Hosted by: A.R. Hopwood

Part 1:

The Science of False Memory

Alasdair Hopwood-Welcome and Introduction to the False Memory Archive

Dr. Fiona Gabbert-The psychology of false memory

Is it possible to develop a ‘memory’ for something that was not experienced? Plenty of evidence now exists to suggest that it is possible …but how does this happen, and can we distinguish false memories from our ‘real’ memories? This seminar provides an overview of how psychologists investigate the phenomenon of false memories, and what the findings can tell us about how our memories work. The implications of this body of research will also be discussed with reference to real life examples.

Dr Fiona Gabbert is a Reader in Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London. She holds an MSc in Social Psychology and a PhD in Applied Psychology from the University of Aberdeen. Fiona is interested in the strengths and weaknesses of human memory. She has an international reputation for her research in the fields of suggestibility of memory and evidence-based investigative interviewing. Her work has set the agenda for new directions in the field of applied memory and cognition, and has had an important impact on police operational procedure and policy in the UK and internationally. Fiona publishes her work extensively in both academic and practitioner journals. She recently co-edited a book Suggestibility in Legal Contexts: Psychological Research and Forensic Implications, which explores a number of topics central to the reliability of eyewitness testimony including controversial topics such as recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse in adulthood, and coerced or false confessions. Fiona sits on the Scientific Committee of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG), and the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society.

Martin Conway-False Memories in the Remembering-Imaging System

What do memories represent? At best they represent some fragments derived from our experience of a past event. That ‘experience’ may have intersected with ‘reality’ to some degree. So the fragments preserved in memory derive from our experience of reality, also to some degree. The brain non-consciously and automatically ‘fills in’, by making unconscious inferences, much of the detail of a ‘memory’. Memories are constructed in the remembering-imaging system (RIS), where future events are also imagined, as well alternative pasts. In this paper I consider how errors and false memories can arise in the RIS for past and future events.

Professor Martin A. Conway is a Psychologist who took his first degree in Psychology at University College London and was awarded a Ph.D. from the Open University in 1984. In 1983 he joined the MRC’s Applied Psychology Unit where he worked as a post-doctoral research scientist until becoming a lecturer at the University of Lancaster in 1988. In 1993 he took up a Professorship at the University of Bristol and became Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology (1994-2001). After a period at the University of Durham (2001-2004), he was awarded an ESRC Professorial Fellowship at the University of Leeds and later became Head of the Institute of Psychological Sciences, 2006-2011. He is currently Head of Department at City University London. He has studied human memory for over 32 years and has an international reputation for research into autobiographical memory, the neuropsychology of memory, and the neurological basis of memory. He is a memory expert witness and has advised in many legal cases in Crown Courts and at the Royal Courts of Appeal. He has also been consulted on cases internationally.

Chris French-Memory for Trauma

This talk will present an overview of research investigating the nature of memory for traumatic events with a particular focus upon examining the Freudian notion of repression. The idea that the experience of trauma often results in the automatic and involuntary repression of memories into the unconscious mind is critically assessed and the risk that the search for such memories can result in the production of false memories is discussed.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society as well as being an Honorary Member of the Centre for Memory and Law at City University. He has published well over 120 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic, co-edited with Wendy Grossman (2010, Philosophy Press), Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan). Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench

Part 2:

Reflections on the False Memory Archive

Dany Nobus-It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards

In this paper, I will argue that the controversial issue concerning the truth value of human memories is in itself a false debate. With reference to the reality of the event that is being recalled, memories are always by definition false. In terms of the subjective experience of the one who is remembering, they are always by definition true. Hence, from a psychoanalytic perspective memories are always simultaneously objectively false and subjectively true, and this can be the starting point for a re-evaluation of Freud’s significance for contemporary ‘scientific’ discussions on the substance and function of memory.

Dany Nobus is Professor of Psychology and Psychoanalysis, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Relations at Brunel University London, where he also directs the MA Programme in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society. He is the Chair of the Freud Museum London, and has published numerous books and papers on the history, theory and practice of psychoanalysis.

Sharon Kivland-Last Year

I am trying to remember a film. It is film about the construction of memory (I think), as it might take place during a psychoanalysis, though I have only half an hour today rather than several years. I have watched the film, as I have done many times before, since 1970 in fact; this time, for a week, trying not to fall asleep at the point I have fallen asleep in it for the last forty-three years. Each time I have awoken, I have tried to remember what I saw last, before I slept. This is a film reconstructed through memory. This is a screen memory. In a series of flashbacks, I try to go back to a founding moment – I do not believe this to be true, but it still works.

Sharon Kivland is an artist and writer. She is Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. Her work considers what is put at stake by art, politics, and psychoanalysis. Her latest book, volume 4 in the series Freud on Holiday, entitled A Cavernous Defile, Part I, was published by Cube Art Editions, Athens, in 2014.

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