To: All Msg #93, Nov-10-93 08:54AM Subject: New FAQ Section Followup-To: sci.skeptic I'd l

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From: Paul Johnson To: All Msg #93, Nov-10-93 08:54AM Subject: New FAQ Section Organization: GEC-Marconi Research Centre, Great Baddow, UK From: (Paul Johnson) Message-ID: <3735@snap> Followup-To: sci.skeptic Newsgroups: sci.skeptic,sci.psychology I'd like to add a new section onto the sci.skeptic FAQ, dealing with false memory syndrome, Satanic abuse, and facilitated communication. The following is a rough draft of what I have in mind. However I have had to rely on memory and a few secondary sources for much of the contents. Rather than posting it as part of the FAQ, I have decided to post it as a "trial balloon". Anyone who knows more is invited to send it in. Followups set to "sci.skeptic". Thanks in advance, Paul. --------8<-----------------8<-------------------8<------------------ Memories are Made of This ========================= 10.1: What is "False Memory Syndrome" (FMS)? -------------------------------------------- If a person is hypnotised then memories can be implanted in his or her mind. Later on the subject will believe these memories. Stage hypnotists and reputable therapists both use this in their work. Hypnosis is actually only the most extreme state in a continuum. Many mental therapy techniques involve putting the subject into a suggestible state. Sometimes this is done explicitly (via hypnosis or drugs), and more often as a side effect of the therapy (e.g group meditation). Implanting memories under these circumstances is harder, but it can be done. Some people are more vulnerable to this than others. [References, anyone?] Children are usually taught to respect adults and believe what they say. Thus a child who is repeatedly told that a certain thing (either explicitly or through leading questions) may well come to believe it. People with such implanted memories are said to be suffering from False Memory Syndrome. 10.2: So how reliable is my memory? ----------------------------------- Psychologists have done a number of experiments which show that memory is not very reliable at all. When we remember something, we recall some facts and then use inference to fill in the gaps. A skilled questioner can use leading questions to provide false information for this process. A question such as "what colour was the thief's moustache?" can get a response such as "brown" even if the the thief was clean-shaven. [I know an actual experiment was run on these lines. Can anyone supply references and more details please?] Most of the time this subconscious mixture of recall, inference and confabulation that makes up the experience we call "remembering" is not important. We usually understand and remember the main events in our lives. The minor details are not usually important. But this is not always the case. * In a courtroom the memory of minor details can make the difference between prison and freedom for the accused. * If memories of major events are placed in the mind then the mind tries to fit these in with all the other memories. Huge amounts of detailed "memories" can be generated in an attempt to make the new memory fit. [Have I got this right? If not, what actually happens?] 10.3: Does Satanism exist? -------------------------- [Information in this section was taken from posts by Brian Siano ] It depends on what you mean by "Satanism". There are a number of minor religions who worship a supernatural entity called "Satan". Their total membership is under 1,000. Their beliefs and practices are legal under the laws of the United States, and they would be wholly unremarkable if it were not for the name of their deity. In mainstream Christianity the term "Satanism" is used to describe an explicitly evil religion. Common threads include the performance of sadistic criminal acts and a belief that might equals right. This bears no resemblance to the minor Satan-worshipping cults described above. 10.3.1: Do Satanists abuse and sacrifice children? -------------------------------------------------- Over the past decade a number of people have claimed that they were involved in much larger and more sinister Satanic churches. Common features of these stories are: * Ritual torture and sacrifice of babies and children. * The use of "breeders": teenage girls made pregnant (usually as part of a ritual) and then aborted at around 7 months. The resulting premature babies are then sacrificed. * The use of horror films, heavy-metal rock music and fantasy role playing games to entrap young people into these cults. * Very large estimates of cult membership. Claims that several percent of the population are involved in these cults are not uncommon. See the earlier question on Grand Conspiracy Theories. Many of the events in these stories should leave physical evidence such as charred bones. No such evidence has ever been found. [Has anyone looked?] In a few cases (under 100 in the US in the past five years) lone paedophiles have been convicted of ritual abuse. Ritual trappings and threats of supernatural retaliation are used by these poeple in order to frighten children into co-operating. Technically these could be described as cases of "Satanic Ritual Abuse", but they bear no resemblance to the Grand Conspiracy Theories described above. 10.4: What is Facilitated Communication (FC)? --------------------------------------------- There are two varieties. 1: Use of mechanical or electronic aids to communication by severely handicapped people. Professor Stephen Hawking (author of "A Brief History of Time") is probably the most famous user of such aids. 2: The use of a human "facilitator" who steadies the hand of a severely handicapped person over a computer keyboard, allowing them to type. The first variety is uncontroversial. This FAQ deals with the second. Human facilitators appeared to have acheived remarkable results with autistic children who were previously thought to be almost unaware of the world around them. With the facilitator holding their hand they were able type perfect prose, and often appeared to have high intelligence. These remarkable results have not stood up to scrutiny. Some skeptics theorised that a facilitator would consciously or unconsciously guide the hand of the child to the key they thought should be next. To test this, the child and facilitator were shown words on separate cards. Each was unable to see the other card. Sometimes the words on the two cards would be the same, and sometimes they would be different. The child was then asked to type the word s/he had seen, with the facilitators help. None of the children could do this unless the facilitator had seen the same word. For more information, see the Sept. 1993 issue of the "Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders". It contains no less than five papers (presumably peer-reviewed) on FC. All five papers report negative findings, i.e. the "super-literacy" disappeared as soon as blind testing was employed, and most of the papers were fairly conclusive that any communication was being done on the part of the facilitators. Despite this, testimony obtained by FC has been admitted as evidence in court, and been used to convict the parents of one autistic child of long-term physical and sexual abuse. [Does anyone know more about this case? PAJ] -- Paul Johnson ( | Tel: +44 245 473331 ext 3245 --------------------------------------------+---------------------------------- Yes, I know my Reply-to address is reversed.| GEC-Marconi Research is not Take it up with my sysadmin. | responsible for my opinions


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