On traumatic experiences
Georgi Gardiner (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Oxford University), Ivan Mangiulli (KU Leuven )

October 12, 2021, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Sociedad Argentina de Investigación en Neurociencias

Buenos Aires



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ON TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES (Tuesday the 12th October, 1pm Buenos Aires, 12pm EDT , 6pm CEST)

Georgi Gardiner (University of Tennessee, US): Trauma’s Trilemma: On Self-Deception, Distraction, and Self-Respect

Abstract: Victims of trauma commonly fail to realise that trauma occurred. According to Warshaw’s I Never Called it Rape, for example, only 27% of acquaintance rape victims acknowledge the incident as rape. Frequently the realisation happens much later, or they describe something that clearly qualifies as rape without applying the label. This mental block is puzzling: The evidence is often significant and conclusive. The individuals possess the relevant concepts and cognitive abilities, yet they do not conclude they were raped. 

This paper investigates that mental block. I argue existing explanations are inadequate. I instead present the block as, in some cases, a rational response to a normative quagmire. Trauma can create a trilemma between emotional exhaustion, violating self-regard, and self-deception. I investigate this trilemma. I argue that, since each horn constitutes a “misstep”, not realising you were raped can be the most reasonable route. 

My discussion highlights the power of attention and distraction for sustaining and justifying victims’ ignorance and I emphasise diachronic features about when and why the delayed realisation occurs. Finally, I raise questions about the ethics of accurately labelling other people’s traumatic experiences for them, and I shed light on unappreciated costs of the #MeToo movement and Catholic Church sex abuse revelations. These vast and valuable public reckonings drew sustained attention to sex crime, which impaired victims’ abilities to sustain self-protective ignorance. 

Content note: This presentation discusses sexual violence, especially acquaintance rape, and investigates the process of delayed realisations about rape. 

Ivan Mangiulli (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium): Is It Possible to Forget Traumatic Experiences? Beyond the Concepts of Dissociative Amnesia and Repressed Memory

Abstract: One of the most heated debates in psychological science concerns the concept of dissociative amnesia, also known as repressed memory. Dissociative amnesia is defined as an inability to remember important autobiographical experiences, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature (e.g., sexual abuse). The key idea here is that to deal with the traumatic experiences, people unconsciously repress their aversive memories, thereby manifesting amnesia for them. A number of contemporary researchers and clinicians prefer to interpret amnesia in terms of dissociation, rather than repression, and have argued that dissociation is the mechanism allowing people to block unwanted memories. 

However, to date, evidence supporting such mechanisms is quite weak. For one thing, the concept of dissociative amnesia (and repressed memory) runs counter to research showing that emotional events are generally well remembered. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that alternative interpretations (e.g., ordinary forgetting, malingering) can better account for dissociative amnesia claims.

In this talk, I will (1) briefly discuss the historical roots of repression and dissociation, (2) highlight the controversial aspects of dissociative amnesia and provide alternative explanations for it, and (3) point out the consequences that claims regarding the inability to remember highly traumatic autobiographical experiences might have to the courtroom (e.g., wrongful conviction).

The talks, comments and discussion are in English. 

Seminario mensual "Construyendo puentes entre la Filosofía y la Neurociencia"

Francisco Gallo, Lab Sueño y Memoria, Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires

Marina Trakas, Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas

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October 12, 2021, 12:00pm ART

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