Contextualism, Naturalistic Inquiry, and the Need for New Science: A Rethinking of Everyday Memory Aging and Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • John C. Cavanaugh
  • Kelly R. Morton


Consider the following two events. In the first, two people embrace, get into bed, and have sexual intercourse. In the second, a person omits a step in a routine. What do these events mean? On the surface—nothing, really. But what if we added contexts, such that in the first instance it was discovered that the two people were newlyweds? Or father and daughter? Would that contextual information affect the interpretation of the event? What if the forgotten step were omitting a necessary punctuation mark in a line of computer input as opposed to how to get home from the corner? Objectively speaking, events and contexts are neutral. What an event means depends entirely on the context in which it is embedded. Intercourse between newlyweds is passionate bliss; intercourse between father and daughter is incest. Forgetting a semicolon is simply annoying; forgetting how to get home may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.


Sexual Abuse Social Context Child Abuse Childhood Sexual Abuse Cognitive Level 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Cavanaugh
  • Kelly R. Morton

There are no affiliations available

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