Elizabeth Loftus

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”
β€”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:

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

β–ͺReactions to blatantly contradictory information (1979)

β–ͺThe 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?πŸ˜‚

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:

β–ͺ This stages holds all information for seconds or fractions of a second.

β–ͺ All unattended sensory input is lost.

Second stage as Short-Term memory:

β–ͺ This stage holds information that we have paid attention to for 15 to 20 seconds.

β–ͺ We can only hold five to seven items during this time in our memory.

β–ͺ 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:

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

β–ͺ There is unlimited capacity for the amount of memories we can hold here.

β–ͺ 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!πŸ˜‰