Pre-thinking:

Loftus begins the talk by telling the story of Steve Titus an innocent man convicted of rape based the eyewitness testimony of the victim. She says that memory is constructed and reconstructed both by us and by other people. Look for how false memory can be inadvertently planted, and consider the consequences? How accurate is your memory

Why you should listen:

Memory-manipulation expert Elizabeth Loftus explains how our memories might not be what they seem — and how implanted memories can have real-life repercussions.

Who is she:

Elizabeth Loftus altered the course of legal history by revealing that memory is not only unreliable, but also mutable. Since the 1970s, Loftus has created an impressive body of scholarly work and has appeared as an expert witness in hundreds of courtrooms, bolstering the cases of defendants facing criminal charges based on eyewitness testimony, and debunking “recovered memory” theories popular at the time, as in her book The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse (with Katherine Ketcham).

Since then, Loftus has dedicated herself to discovering how false memories can affect our daily lives, leading her to surprising therapeutic applications for memory modification — including controlling obesity by implanting patients with preferences for healthy foods.

Questions:

  1. Why did the rape victim become more sure (not less sure) of the guilt of Steve Titus as time went by?
  1. What are some of the consequences of stress on emotional and physical health (that we see in the Steve Titus case)?
  1. What are some of the research methods that Loftus and other researchers use to study false memory?
  1. How does our language (that is how we formulate questions) impact how accurately people respond?
  1. Loftus states that, “misinformation is everywhere”. Do some research to support or refute this statement and present it to someone else for discussion.
  1. How did psychotherapy lead to the rash of bizarre false memory cases seen during the 1990s?

The fiction of memory with Elizabeth Loftus

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