The Roswell Memory Mess
Copyright 2010, InterAmerica, Inc.
Debate continues here and elsewhere about witness testimony regarding the Roswell incident [sic] and other UFO episodes.
Related accounts at the time and, more importantly, later – much later in some instances – have to be tempered by all the psychological caveats for memory.
The literature is extensive, but not accessed by ufologists (which isn’t surprising, as ufologists generally are inept at researching what they perceive as tangential to their preconceived notions) and, along with their inadequate training in appropriate academic disciplines, the matter of memory failure is shunted aside or disregarded altogether.
But it is clear to psychologists, neurologists, and those in the legal profession (lawyers, prosecutors, judges, et al.) that witness testimony has to be corroborated by something more than circumstantial elements. That is, memory alone cannot and should not be the sole arbitrator in matters of serious consequence.
The mental acuity of every person is subject to a diversity of things including physiological debilities, associative history (from childhood onward), memory disorder,1 and something we call the Smiley Blanton Syndrome, predefined by F. C. Bartlett in his book Remembering [Cambridge University Press, 1932]:
"[Bartlett] has demonstrated that the content of what has been previously acquired in ordinary experience may be radically altered when remembered…It is his argument that the individual tends to incorporate new items a mental ‘schema’ so that remembering is ‘an imaginative reconstruction, or construction, built out of the relation of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organized past reactions or experience…"2
Ernst Jones also discussed “memory replacement” in his Papers on Psycho-Analysis, (4th Edition, Wood, Baltimore 1938)3
The processes of memory may be afflicted by neural maladies including simple forgetfulness all the way to dementia. The “memory trace” or neurogram (engram) can be disoriented by brain modifications or diseases of the nervous system, as outlined in Psychology [4th Edition, Norman L. Munn, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston 1961, Page 451 ff.]
Repression also needs to be determined, as many Roswellians, according to Anthony Bragalia (See material in archives here), were affected psychologically (and physiologically) by their association with the Roswell story and may have resorted to the neurotic escape of suppressing what they experienced, in reality or in fantasy. (See The Psychology of Adjustment, 2nd Edition, Laurance Frederic Shaffer and Edward Joseph Shoben, Jr., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1956, Page 236 ff.)
Then there is “memory error” or confabulation where, unable to recall exact events or details, persons manufacture something that seems appropriate.4
None of the things mentioned here have been taken into account, for the Roswell witnesses or witnesses to other UFO sightings and events.
Until the memory matter is clarified, which is possible for some still-living Roswell witnesses, their accounts and remembrances remain suspect.
N.B. See also sciconrev.org/category/cognition/
1 Symptoms of Psychopathology: A Handbook, Edited by Charles G. Costello, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. NY, 1970, Page 95 ff.
2 A Dictionary of the Social Sciences, Edited by Julius Gould and William L. Kolb, The Free Press, NY, 1964, Page 422
3 Psychiatric Dictionary, 4th Edition, Edited by Leland E. Hinsie, M.D. and Robert J. Campbell, M.D., Oxford University Press, London, 1970, Page 189
4 Psychology Today, CRM Books, Del Mar, California, 1970, Page 360