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Sigmund Freud proposed that the human brain subconsciously represses unwanted or conflicting memories or alters them with false memories. In order to cope mentally with such traumatic events, the human brain will perform this automatic and biological brain mechanism due to the risk of  acceptance of truth, fear of being ridiculed or because of traumatic betrayal from a trusted companion. In order thoroughly understand this concept, Freud came up with the free association technique in which the patient and psychoanalyst converse one-on-one while the patient is under oath to speak truthfully of circumstances even those which are uncomfortable to speak of. This encourages patients to speak freely for themselves and work through their own recollection of memories rather than hypnosis. Another method of deciphering unconscious memories is dream analysis in which the brain projects conscious and subconscious thoughts to the dreamer. In the scientific community repressed memories are not considered as credible as they can be tampered with false memories. Even in hypnosis, the patient may be recollecting memories in an altered state of consciousness further giving rise to disagreement. Comparing Michael Anderson’s “Suppressing Unwanted Memories by Executive Control” (2001) published in Nature and the case studies of Ross Cheit and Rachel, it is presented abundantly clear that the human brain is indeed capable of actively forgetting unpleasant memories.
Lisa Trei’s research (2004) regarding Anderson’s study reveals the existence of memory repression with an experiment that tests the ability to recall when one willingly choses not to think through continuous exposure. In the experiment, thirty-four people from the ages of 19 and 31 are given 36 pairs of unrelated nouns put together, such as “jaw-gum” and “steam-train” (The Experiment section, para. 1). The participants are then tested to remember the words at 5 second intervals until they got a minimum of three quarters of the words right. Researches then divided the 26 words into three sets of 12 words each. In the first set, participants had to look at the first word in the pair (steam in “steam-train”) and recall the second word. In the second set, participants had to look at the first word of the pair and try not to recall the second word. Lastly, the third set of word pairs were not used but used as a baseline. The participants were given four-seconds to examine the first word in set one and set two sixteen times in thirty minutes. The participants brains were being tested during this experiment using (fMRI) functional magnetic resonance imaging (The Experiment section, para. 2). After the screening subsided, the participants were retested on all 36 word pairs. In the result of which, the participants remembered fewer word pairs that they had actively tried not to recall than the third set of word-pairs that were not even used in the experiment and were not exposed for thirty minutes (The Experiment section, para. 3). Examining the fMRI scans of the participants, Anderson discovered that controlling unwanted memories displayed increased activation of the left and frontal cortex—the part of the brain that is responsible for repressing memories. This led to reduced activation of the hippocampus—the part of the brain used to remember experiences (para. 8). In this study, Anderson discovered that the human memory gets progressively worse the more consciousness tries to avoid it. Continuous exposure of memories that one does not wish to recall become harder to remember than the memories with no exposure at all. 

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Freyd, Jennifer J. Betryal Trauma. Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, 1994.
Trei, L. (2004, January 8). Psychologists offer proof of brain’s ability to suppress memories. Retrieved January 26, 2018, from https://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/january14/memory-114.html

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