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What FMSF said they did:

“FMSF is first a research organization that is documenting the extent of this phenomenon.” - FMSF Staff, in FMSF Newsletter. [1]

What FMSF actually did:

✓+ Produced Negligible Peer Reviewed Science

“Research” – Family Surveys:
The closest thing to peer reviewed research the FMSF has ever published is the results of their survey data, “From Refusal to Reconciliation: Family Relationships After an Accusation Based on Recovered Memories” in 2004. The article is co-authored by Pamela Freyd and several FMSF advisory board members. It was sponsored by the FMSF.

The survey targeted people who had been allegedly accused of childhood sexual abuse by a family member. It collected demographic data on the accusers and accused, information about their relationship, whether or not the accuser was in therapy, family dynamics, accusation characteristics, response to the accusation, and categorization of the accuser as a refusers, returners, or retractors.

However, there was no formal or legal investigation as to whether survey respondents could actually be described as cases of false accusations – the only proof given was the word of the accused. Furthermore, the participant population was hand selected from paying subscribers who called the foundation for information on false accusations. There was no control group. Ken Pope states that “It remains unclear whether the protocol of any research purporting to validate the false memory syndrome diagnosis in large numbers of persons used any criterion other than the decision rule that all recovered memories of abuse are inherently false.” [3]

Read about the resulting characterizations of FMS drawn from family surveys on the FMS page. Discussion of family surveys continued later on this page.

“Research” – Funded a Ghost Writer:
Paul McHugh, a FMSF advisory board member, is listed as the sole author of Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind. However, a close look at the book’s preface, and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation’s tax records reveal that McHugh’s daughter Clare and her husband were paid upwards of $115,000 by the FMSF to ghostwrite the book. Neither McHugh nor the foundation explicitly disclosed the financial support given by the foundation - which breaches ethical norms for scientists. The FMSF’s ghost writer situation is expanded upon in this blog post.

“Research” – Compiled Anonymous Familial Stories:
The FMSF sponsored and contributed to books compiling stories of false accusations and ‘false memories,’ often from the perspective of accused family members.

“One of our parents is a publisher who has the talent and the ability to write and publish a book of our stories… We need your stories for this book as quickly as possible. We want to have the book completed by June to use for media purposes.” [4]

These stories are compiled in two books published by Eleanor Goldstein:
Confabulations: Creating False Memories, Destroying Families (1992)
True Stories of False Memories (1993)
In Confabulations, Pamela Freyd anonymously published her article “How Could this Happen?” which was also printed in Underwager’s self-published journal, ‘Issues In Child Abuse Accusations.’

“Research” - Published Collections of Other’s Work
The FMSF published and distributed collections of research articles written by scholars that did not represent the Foundation. Their newspaper announced “we ended 1992 with so many articles about FMS that we are going to publish a collection to make them available at low cost.” [5] These appeared in the newsletter itself, on the FMSF’s website, and in a book titled Smiling Through Tears published by Pamela Freyd and Eleanor Goldstein. The book, described by Sandra Martin as “a piece of fundraising merchandise, like T-shirts or greeting cards,” also included “more than 100 cartoons ridiculing recovered memory therapy, multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.” [6]

✓ + Wildly exaggerated their membership and reports of “documented cases of false memory” by various measures
Stephanie Dallam meticulously breaks down the Foundation’s exaggeration of membership figures and cases in her article, “Crisis or Creation? A Systematic Examination of "False Memory Syndrome." You can read the full article here:

FMSF Members
FMSF membership reported to the public has been consistently and highly inflated, in comparison to actual membership the FMSF reported to the IRS. Dallam found that
“In early 1994, the Sacramento Bee reported that Pamela Freyd “said her Foundation has 11,000 members, including health professionals and lawyers.”… In an article ironically titled ‘Ethical Issues in the Search for Repressed Memories,’ FMSF advisor Harold Merskey (1996) reported “The FMSF has grown rapidly with over 12,000 members by early 1995 and with more than 21,000 listed inquiries” … In April 1995, Ofra Bikel's Frontline documentary ‘Divided Memories’ (which relied heavily on the FMSF for information) reported that the foundation had 15,000 members. Toward the end of 1995, the FMSF's newsletter suggested that the organization was “over 17,000 strong” … These figures [are] significantly larger than those reported to the IRS for 1995. The FMSF reported that by the end of 1995; they had 2,385 members… in 1996 the average membership figure reported to the public was approximately six times higher than the figure reported to the IRS.” [7]

The FMSF reporting inflated membership continued despite Moving Forward contacting Pamela Freyd about membership discrepancies after Peter Freyd had posted to an online email listserv ‘Witchunt’ that the FMSF had at least 2,500 members. In response, Pamela Freyd stated in September 1995 that the FMSF had around 4,000 members [8] – still nearly twice the number reported to the IRS.

The FMSF conflated how many calls they received with their membership, and the resulting statistic was mis-reported as documented cases of False Memory Syndrome.

Dallam reports that a FMSF newsletter issue in March of 1994 “implied that 11,000 "worried" contacts now represented both "documented cases," and members of the organization. The front page of the March 1994 newsletter featured a bar graph titled: "Number of Cases Documented." The graph shows 11,000 documented cases of false memory during the preceding two years. However, a close examination of the accompanying text revealed that the FMSF had been contacted by 11,000 people. Thus, "documented cases" were actually phone calls asking for information. The text also reveals that in over a third of these 11,000 calls, the "callers or writers have said they had a family problem, but we do not yet have the details.”” [7]

Dallam notes that the “FMSF's phones are answered by lay volunteers rather than mental health professionals” and that no investigation into the calls or the truth of the respondent’s claims is conducted by the FMSF.” [7]

In their family survey results, the FMSF states that 1,734 usable surveys were returned – even if these all were considered documented cases of accusations based on false memories – regardless of the lack of investigation – that is a far cry from their claim of 11,000 documented cases. [7]

Moving Forward: The FMSF Decides to “Stop Reporting” Numbers

Moving Forward published their article “False Memory Syndrome Foundation's Membership Exaggerated: Organization has Only About 4,000 Members” in September 1995. It successfully connected the FMSF’s inflated membership with their reported phone calls, criticizing the lack of investigation into ‘documented cases’ and resulting membership figures;
“Other questions are being raised over how FMSF calculates its membership. The organization has apparently adopted the practice of labeling many of its members and contacts a “family...” According to Pamela Freyd, this method of categorizing members and contacts extends to every inquiry about a situation that FMSF receives "in which the person indicates that they know someone who had no memories of abuse before therapy." In other words, Those who merely claim that they have a family member who has recovered memories of abuse are automatically categorized as representing entire families [by the FMSF]... in Clohessy's view. "Under the current way in which the organization tallies its members and contacts," he says, "child molesters who have confessed to their crimes and have been convicted of child abuse could join or call up and be counted as a 'family'." [8]

In response, Pamela Freyd announced in the October 1995 FMSF newsletter that despite how “numbers always seem to fascinate people,” the foundation had stopped recording the number of ‘documented cases’ of ‘false memory syndrome’ as they believed they had sufficiently proved that ‘FMS’ existed:
“The FMS Foundation is frequently asked to provide the "number" of individuals in various categories that we have described, such as affected family contacts, retractors or lawsuits… We [the FMSF] stopped reporting numbers a few months after we announced that 10,000 people had told us that an adult… in some sort of therapy setting had claimed to have "recovered repressed memories" that she had never known about before, made accusations and cut off all contact with anyone who would not validate the new beliefs. We stopped reporting numbers because we believed that we had documented the existence of a problem.” [9]

✓ + Held a Double standard for “Evidence”

Criticized the Use of Case Reports and Testimonials
The FMSF consistently criticized the use of corroborated case reports to support the phenomenon of recovered memories;

“Science, however, requires more than reporting a single case study before a claim that there is "verifiable evidence of repression at work" may be made.”- FMSF Staff, in FMSF newsletter. [10]

“It is wrong to cite a testimonial or case study as support for a particular theory or therapy.” - Ralph Underwager, quoted in FMSF Newsletter. [11]

Used Case Reports and Testimonials
As noted above, the FMSF ‘documented’ the ‘false memory phenomena’ through the personal reports of accused family members; either by phone call, letter mail, or surveys mailed to paying FMSF members. These collected testimonials were not investigated through any formal or informal process. No scientific research based on anything beyond these testimonials was produced by the FMSF in support of ‘False Memory Syndrome.’ [7]

“The purpose of surveying the families who have contacted the FMS Foundation is to get as reliable and consistent information as we are able in order to document and describe the FMS phenomenon.” - FMSF Staff, Family Survey Results [12]

"Each letter, each story, each news clipping, each brochure is archived. For researchers trying to understand what is currently taking place, these will someday provide valuable
evidence. Please continue to help us document this phenomenon by sending us these things (carefully labeled with the date, location and source.)" - Pamela Freyd, in FMSF Newsletter. [13]

The FMSF’s website claims that their “archives will continue to be available” for viewing by interested parties. [14] However, our research team was unable to access the archive to verify any documentation after repeated efforts.

✓ + Ignored Conflicting Results

Attempted to Silence Researchers with Conflicting Results
Anna Salter published a detailed review of Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield’s work on false childhood accusations of abuse, criticizing their “extraordinary number of distortions and errors” [15] in one of the first significant pieces of literature challenging Underwager's work. Shortly after, Underwager staged a lengthy harassment campaign against Salter, involving numerous lawsuits, an ethics charge, and phony phone calls. [16]

Beyond harassment campaigns, the FMSF was overly critical of researchers supportive of recovered memories, calling them “true believers,” “like a cult,' comparing them to fascists and using holocaust imagery. [3]

The FMSF’s attempts to silence opposing voices in areas other than scientific research is expanded on in What they actually did: Silenced Those Who Disagreed With Them

Ignore Results That Don’t Align with their Ideology
Besides directly attacking researchers who disagreed with the FMSF, studies contradicting FMSF propaganda were often left missing from the FMSF newsletter – despite the fact that its intention was to “keep thousands informed of important developments” relating to false memories. [17]

For example, Kathy Pezdek has been producing groundbreaking research combating false memory claims throughout the controversy. Pezdek drafted the collective letter to the APS observer urging the other scholars to spurn the phrase “false memory syndrome” for “the sake of intellectual honesty” – one of the first collective efforts to combat the FMSF. [18] The FMSF responded to Pezdek’s claim that there is little scientific research backing FMS; “We agree and we ask for her help in defining and describing in a more scientific manner the FMS phenomenon.” [19] Pezdek went on to produce dozens of studies on the subject over the next few decades. However, other than the occasional citation, Pezdek’s research was left unmentioned in the FMSF newsletter until 2005. Finally, the FMSF published a column; it was a shallow and short review which described Pezdek’s work as a “desperate effort” to discount research that supported FMS, relying on “abandoned” arguments, with a lead author whose “long been a zealous believer” in recovered memories. Her work is summarized in only a few sentences. [20]

✓ (^)+ Ignored ethical problems in their scientific advisory board

Elizabeth Loftus
Loftus, a prominent member of the FMSF advisory board who was described as “a courageous founding member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory board of the Foundation,” [21] was subject to three ethics complaints.

Two complaints were filed with the APA in December of 1995 – however, before the complaints were processed, Loftus was tipped off to the complaint submission by the APA’s CEO and abruptly resigned less than a month later. The investigation process was unable to be completed due to her resignation. [22]

The third complaint was filed by Nicole Taus, the subject of a well-known case study, with the University of Washington. It concerned Loftus’ hiring a private investigator to scrutinize Taus’ life and Loftus’ unauthorized contact with Taus’ family members. Loftus’ records were seized for almost 2 years before she was reprimanded, instructed not to contact Taus’ mother without permission, and recommended an ethics course. [23]

The FMSF defended Loftus in all three cases. In their newsletter, the FMSF claimed that the APA complaints were a “smear campaign,” [24] and denied any connection between Loftus’ resignation and the complaints. In the Taus case, they falsely claimed she was exonerated and defended Loftus’ right to privately investigate Taus. [25]

You can read more about the ethics complaints and the resulting Taus v. Loftus lawsuit on Elizabeth Loftus’ page.


[1] FMSF Staff. (1993, May 3). Important Organizational Notice. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 2(5), 7.
[2] Freyd, Pamela. (1995, October 1). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 4(9), 1.
[3] Pope, Ken. (1996). Memory, abuse, and science. Questioning claims about the false memory syndrome epidemic. The American psychologist, 51(9), 957–974.
[4] FMSF Staff (1992, March 15). Important Notice. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(1), 4.
[5] Freyd, Pamela (1993, January 8). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 2(1), 1.
[6] Martin, Sandra. (September 27 1997). Stick to Cartoons in False Memory Book. Review of: Smiling Through Tears by Pamela Freyd and Eleanor Goldstein. Globe & Mail.
[7] Dallam, Stephanie. (2002). Crisis or Creation: A systematic examination of false memory claims. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse,9 (3/4), 9-36.
[8] Lawrence, L.R. (1995). False Memory Syndrome Foundation's membership exaggerated: Organization only has about 4,000 members . Moving Forward, 3 (3), 6-7.
[9] Freyd, Pamela. (1995, October 1). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 4(9), 1.
[10] FMSF Staff. (2000, May/June). Case Study. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 9(3), 5.
[11] Underwager, Ralph. (1994) Return of the Furies: An Investigation into Recovered Memory Therapy. Open Court Publishing, Illinois.
Quoted in Dawes, Robyn (1995, January 1) Book Review. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 4(1), 11.
[12] False Memory Syndrome Foundation. (1993, Summer). Family Survey Results. Retrieved from: [INTERNAL DOCUMENT LINK]
[13] Freyd, Pamela. (1992, August/September). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(8), 1.
[14] False Memory Syndrome Foundation. (2019). Welcome to. Memory and Reality, Website of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
[15] Salter, A. (1992). Accuracy of expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases: A case study of Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield. Unpublished manuscript.
[16] Anna C. Salter (1998) Confessions of a Whistle-Blower: Lessons Learned. Ethics & Behavior, 8:2, 115-124, DOI: 10.1207/s15327019eb0802_2
[17] False Memory Syndrome Foundation. (2013, December 28). Frequently Asked Questions. Memory and Reality: Website of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
[18] Carstensen, Laura. (1993, March). Repressed Objectivity [Letter to the editor]. APS Observer.
[19] FMSF Staff. (1992, December 5). Our Critics. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(11), 2.
[20] FMSF Staff. (2005, November/December) Old Argument in New Form. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 14(6), 7.
[21] FMSF Staff. (2007, Spring) Loftus Case: Court Tosses All But One Claim. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 16(2), 3.
[22] Hoffman, David. (2015). Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent Review Relating to the APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture. Sidley Austin. Retrieved from:
[23] Kluemper, Nicole. (2014). Published Case Reports: One Woman’s Account of Having Her Confidentiality Violated. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(18), 3232–3244.
[24] Freyd, Pamela. (1996, April 1). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 5(6), 1.
[25] FMSF Staff. (1996, April 1). More Smear. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 5(6), 6-7.

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