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Belief in Unconscious Repressed Memory Persists

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5747-5571, Dodier, O. , Lilienfeld, S., Loftus, E., Lynn, S., Merckelbach, H. & Patihis, L. (2021). Belief in Unconscious Repressed Memory Persists. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(2), pp. 454-460. doi: 10.1177/1745691621990628


Based on converging research, we concluded that the controversial topic of unconscious blockage of psychological trauma –i.e., repressed memory- remains very much alive in clinical, legal, and academic contexts (Otgaar et al., 2019). In his commentary, Brewin (in press) conducted a co-citation analysis and concluded that scholars do not adhere to the concept of unconscious repression. Furthermore, he argued that previous survey research did not specifically assess unconscious repression. Here, we present critical evidence that runs counter to his claims. First, we inspected his co-citation analysis and found that some scholars ascribe to notions closely related to unconscious repression. Furthermore, we conducted another analysis based on papers’ similarity between each other. Again, we found examples of scholars specifically endorsing unconscious repressed memories. Second, contra Brewin, recent survey research now exists that bears directly on people’s beliefs regarding unconscious repression. This work reveals that large percentages of people (students and EMDR clinicians) endorse the concept of unconscious repressed memories. The belief in unconscious repressed memory can continue to contribute to harmful consequences in clinical, legal, and academic domains (e.g., false accusations of abuse).

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Repressed Memory; Memory Wars; Unconscious; False Memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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