Elizabeth Loftus

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”
—Mark Twain

Elizabeth Loftus is a renowned psychologist who specializes in memory, she focuses her theories and research on the premise that memories are not always accurate, and that repressed memories can be false memories created by the brain.

Loftus theorized that our brains are highly suggestible and can sometimes makeup memories to fill in gaps of information that is not known to us.

Elizabeth suggests that perhaps repressed memories are not always real repression of actual events, but rather created from a combination of waking and dreaming situations.

Elizabeth has spent many decades researching how much of our memories are real and how much we create from information gathered after the event has taken place.

Although Loftus has conducted hundreds of experiments here is a list of some of her most well-known studies:

Semantic Integration of Verbal Information into a Visual Memory (1978)

Reactions to blatantly contradictory information (1979)

The formation of false memories (1995)

eyewitness testimony? The only thing i witness is your false memories -  Futurama Fry | Meme Generator
Courtesy of memegenerator.net

Loftus began to question how accurate eyewitness testimony was.

The results from her experiments led her to start the very study of eyewitness testimony, showing how it can often be unreliable and that memory can be altered by a simple suggestion of misinformation.

She has testified in over 200 trials because of her expertise and helped save many innocent lives. Her work has had a huge impact on the judicial system and help develop the most efficient ways to get accurate information from witnesses by ensure police officers don’t ask leading questions.

Having won many prestigious awards, her work has also won her many critics. Even still, there is no denying her work has contributed enormously to how we view memory in all its fragility and complexity.

After reading all of that, how much do you think of your memories as a child are accurate and how much of those memories are created from post event information?

I think if you thought too much about it you begin to doubt everything?😂

So for now I’m happy to believe I met a fairy in the forest when I was seven years old, how about you?

For more information on Loftus’s study check out this video courtesy of YouTube.

Memory processes

Can u remember everything you did yesterday? What about last week or how about your first day at school? Yesterday will probably be easy but the further you go back they more faded the memory may be.

Memory is the process involved in retaining, retrieving and using information of what we seen and heard, after the original event has happened.

Like all things of the mind, memory is not a straightforward process. It involves many complex stages to become a long held memory in our minds for years to come. There are three stages known as The Modal of Memory:

Courtesy of OpenBCI.com

First stage is known as Sensory memory:

▪ This stages holds all information for seconds or fractions of a second.

▪ All unattended sensory input is lost.

Second stage as Short-Term memory:

▪ This stage holds information that we have paid attention to for 15 to 20 seconds.

▪ We can only hold five to seven items during this time in our memory.

▪ Rehearsal ( like repeating a phone number) allows for the memory to stay longer in our thoughts, otherwise it get lost.

Last stage is known as Long-Term memory:

▪ This stage is where we transfer memories into our minds for years or even decades.

▪ There is unlimited capacity for the amount of memories we can hold here.

▪ Although, some information may be lost or become faded over time.

Think of memories like muscles, the more you use them the more stronger they become.

In a classic study conducted by George Miller “Seven plus or minus two”, our short-term memory has the capacity to hold five to nine items. Recent studies have shown that this can be expanded by ‘chunking’. This means putting smaller units together to create more larger meaningful units. A good example of this is with phone numbers instead of 4-1-7-1-2-3-4 it easier to remember as 417-1234.

An excellent technique to help you with studying, here’s a video to grasp the concept more:

Courtesy of YouTube.

What’s really interesting about memories is that sometimes they can be false. As we go about in our daily lives we are susceptible to people or events altering our memories, there has been lots of research on this phenomena known as: The Misinformation effect. A study conducted by Elizabeth Loftus and coworkers found they could alter participants memories of a video they has watched by given them false post event information of the video.

If you find more about her work and find her as fascinating as I do, check out some of the main contribution to psychology on this link.

So back to my question at the start, but this time let me add some changes…. can you remember yesterday, accurately? Yes? But what about your first day at school? Still think it’s accurate? Over the years information you have pick up from stories other people tell of that day like your mom or maybe older sister may have altered they memory from what it originally was.

Might be a good idea to keep a diary…. to keep the record straight!😉

Cognitive Psychology

The mind is something we use constantly, yet we never give much thought to how it works. One way psychologist try to understand these internal processes is called Cognitive Psychology. This is the scientific study of the mind and its mental processes. Simply put it involves knowing, remembering, understanding, communicating and learning. But our minds are extremely complex and sometimes we can get things wrong! Here is a funny and informative crash course video in what exactly Cognitive Psychology is all about and how sometimes cognition is not always logical:

Courtesy of YouTube

After watching that video what do you think about your concepts for certain things and prototypes? Do you thing they limit your ideas of the world? Some food for thought! Another interesting cognitive process is heuristics. This simple strategy of short-cuts our brain takes to help navigate the thousands mental processes throughout our day-to-day lives. Notice the next time you go shopping how you go straight to certain aisles without much thought and how you didn’t even need to really give it much thought. 

One way psychologist studied cognition was through behavioral approach. Gias et al. (2007) studied the effects of sleep on memory consolidation. They found those who went to sleep straight after learning a particular piece of information remembered it better then those who had not slept until a couple of hours later. This is because sleep helps us to store memories in our hippocampus, the area of the brain strongly linked to memory.

A great excuse next time you fall asleep in class! 

Cognitive Psychology is a relatively new area of research in Psychology but there are lots of exciting new discoveries being made. If you want learn more about how we process information or how we create habits, check out this link to Simple Psychology for more fascinating facts.

Child development

Developmental psychology focuses on how humans grow, develop skills, and adapt across the lifespan; asking questions like how much skills are we born with? Or how much training does a child need to develop life skills? One psychologist who was a pioneer in this research was Jean Piaget. He observed how children were experimenters of their own world making little “experiments” and finding solutions through trial and error. As a parent you might think your child is just picking up blocks and dropping them as a means of getting attention, but according to Piaget these little “experiments” are a child’s way of making discoveries about the world around them. Children learn through play and develop the necessary life skills to grow into fully functioning adults. Going through four stages of development, each one with its own particular cognitive growth. Check out the video on how exactly a child develops through each stage:

Courtesy of YouTube

Having watch that video can you think back to when you were that age, did you ask your parents why profusely? Or conduct little experiments and play pretend? I know I made lots of mud pies and much to my mothers dismay questioned everything!

I also wonder should adults continue to play, paint and question the world? Maybe that the secret to feeling young! What do you think?

Free Children Playing Clipart, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on  Clipart Library

Attachment Theory

In psychology, we always ask questions such as: why do people behave in a certain way? Are we born with certain biological traits? Does our environment shape who we become? One way of answering these questions is by looking at Attachment Theory. Psychologist Mary Ainsworth studied the quality of children’s attachment to the caregiver. Attachment is the positive emotional bond that develops between a child and a particular special individual. A child experiences pleasure and comfort in their presence. Mary created an experiment called The Stranger Situation Paradigm to assess children’s various attachment styles. Originally, there were three attachment styles:

•Secure– secure, explorative and happy.

•Insecure/ Avoidant– Not very explorative and emotionally distant.

•Insecure/ Ambivalent– Anxious, insecure and angry.

What is fascinating about this study is we can understand from observing the child and caregiver if they have formed a well adjusted bond. Watch this video to understand how this study works.

The Stranger Situation experiment

Video courtesy of youtube

After watching this video, what attachment style do you think you might have had as a child? Do you think this affected your relationships as you got older?

If this topic interests you (like it has me) then check out this really good article on Mary Ainsworth and all of the work she has done with child psychology through the course of her career.