The Bad Science Behind Campus Response to Sexual Assault

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

I talked with Richard McNally, a psychology professor at Harvard and one of the country’s leading experts on the effects of trauma on memory, about the assertions Campbell made in her presentation. He first said that because assaults do not occur within the laboratory, “there is no direct evidence” of any precise or particular cascade of physiological effects during one, “nor is there going to be.” But there is plenty of evidence about how highly stressful experiences affect memory, and much of it directly contradicts Campbell. In his 2003 book, Remembering Trauma, McNally writes, “Neuroscience research does not support [the] claim that high levels of stress hormones impair memory for traumatic experience.” In fact, it’s almost the opposite: “Extreme stress enhances memory for the central aspects of an overwhelming emotional experience.”

Read the article by Emily Yoffe in The Atlantic.