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Harrison Pope

Expert Witness for the Defense
Served as an expert witness in court, critiquing the validity of recovered memories as evidence.

Harrison Pope serves as an expert witness in recovered memory cases, arguing against the validity of recovered memories. On numerous occasions, Harrison Pope has gone up against Jim Hopper, an expert witness arguing for the validity of recovered memories. Pope has been beaten by Hopper multiple times. Notably, Hopper won over Pope in Murray Huber’s Case – a case unrelated to repressed or recovered memories. The complainant had continuous memories of abuse, and Huber pleaded guilty before the trial date. Without ever examining her, Pope construed the complainant’s memories as “recovered memories” in an attempt to undermine her accusation and prevent her from testifying. Presiding Justice Marguerite Wageling noted wryly that “Dr. Pope’s 68-page curriculum vita does not provide any indication that he has developed expertise in interpersonal violence or the possible behavioral spectrum of victims of interpersonal violence.” [1]

While being questioned in court, Pope admitted to earning $600 an hour, $6,000 a day, and over $100,000 a year testifying part-time for the defense in court. [2]

Repression Challenge:
On his website for his laboratory at Mclean (no longer available on the web), Harrison Pope posed the "repression challenge,” challenging anyone to find an example of repression and recovery before 1800, for $1,000. His criteria was incredibly narrow:
“To qualify as a bona fide case, the individual described in the work must:
1) experience a severe trauma (abuse, sexual assault, a near-death experience, etc.); and
2) develop amnesia for that trauma for months or years afterwards (i.e. be clearly unable to remember the traumatic event as opposed to merely denying or avoiding the thought); where
3) the amnesia cannot be explained by biological factors, such as a) early childhood amnesia -- in which the individual was under age five at the time of the trauma, or b) neurological impairment due to head injury, drug or alcohol intoxication, or biological diseases. Also, the individual must
4) "recover" the lost memory at some later time, even though the individual had previously been unable to access the memory.” [3]
Pope dismissed cases that he described as ‘ordinary forgetfulness’ and those which lacked specific details about the content of repressed memories. [4]

He published a paper that argued that the failure of anyone to find an example proved that repressed memory was a social construction. In this paper, he explicitly stated that his point would be disproved if anyone found an example and won the challenge [4]

However, someone did win the challenge: an opera from 1786 that specifically mentioned repression and recovery of memory was found. Instead of retracting his claim, Pope responded that he just “got the date wrong” and that repression was still socially constructed. [3]

The repression challenge and the resulting paper written by Pope were responded to by Goldsmith, Cheit, and Wood in an article titled “Ignoring Nina: Avoidance and Denial in Pope, Poliakoff, Parker, Boynes, and Hudson (2009).” In this article, the authors critique “the contest's methodological flaws,” Pope’s “illogical reasoning and conclusions concerning research studies on dissociative amnesia,” and his “absence of an explanation as to why their criteria for dissociative amnesia differ from those of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” They note that even after Pope acknowledged the opera Nina, which won the repression challenge and disproved his paper’s conclusions, “[Pope] did not publish an addendum or retraction of their 2007 article.” [5]


[1] Order on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss: Recovered Memory, State v. Huber. Docket No. 218-2016-CR-189,238. Rockingham County Superior Court, New Hampshire.
[2] Clark v. Edison. (2012, July 13). Testimony of Harrison G. Pope, Ph.D. Case No. 09cv40040-FDS. District Court of Massachusetts.
[3] Pope, Harrison. (2007, July 4). The Repression Challenge. Mclean Hospital's Biological Psychiatry Laboratory Website. Retrieved from:
[4] Pope, Harrison et al.. (2007). Is dissociative amnesia a culture-bound syndrome? Findings from a survey of historical literature. Psychological Medicine, 37(2), 225–233.
[5] Goldsmith, R. E., Cheit, R. E., & Wood, M. E. (2009). Ignoring Nina: Avoidance and Denial in Pope, Poliakoff, Parker, Boynes, and Hudson (2009). Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 10(3), 258–260.

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