What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us: Clinical Inference Bias and Constructed Memories of Sexual Abuse.

Date of Award


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

John McNeill

First Committee Member

Paul Block

Second Committee Member

Martha Pearse


Recovered memory ; Sexual abuse victims--Psychology


The false memory/recovered memory debate, research regarding the malleability of memory, and the current lack of methods for validating recovered memories all support the view that heightened care is required of therapists dealing with clients whom they suspect have been sexually abused. The judgmental heuristics that underlie the major clinical inference biases of confirmatory bias, biased covariation, base rate fallacies, and schematic processing errors are all relevant to the processes leading to therapist-client constructions of memories of sexual abuse. Suggestions for minimizing each of these biases are offered. Personal motivations of the client and client suggestibility are factors that may contribute to the construction of memories of sexual abuse, and suggestions for minimizing the impact of these motivations are offered. In conclusion, general suggestions for minimizing the impact of clinical inference biases within the sexual abuse treatment context are summarized.


Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


57 pages

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