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Elizabeth Loftus: What's the Matter with Memory?

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Previous FORAtv comments:
mike78 Avatar
Posted: 08.03.09, 04:28 AM
Elizabeth Loftus has been touting the same crappy studies for 20+ years. There is a reason why she is the *only* major person making the claims she does; her research bears almost no relevance to the subject of repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse, yet that is what she constantly makes references to. There is voluminous evidence by a number of professionals that repression of memory does exist, and apart from Loftus' flawed and nearly worthless studies, there is no credible evidence that traumatic memories can be implanted. Furthermore, there has been extensive additional study in the past 20 years relating to the use of hypnosis and other memory recovery techniques, and it is clear that if language-neutral approaches are used that are not suggestive of any particular outcome or idea, then no memory implantation can occur. Additionally, this woman has never worked with patients clinically, and as far as I'm aware, possesses no clinical knowledge or experience whatsoever; all of her work is isolated in the laboratory under artificial settings. It would indeed be nice if in the future, both and the institutions that pay her large sums of money to promote her psuedoscience would also offer opposing points of view from reputable and credible researchers who have actually worked with people clinically, rather than made up ill-thought-out studies that are in no way comparable to the sort of experience someone suffering from sexual abuse would experience. This woman should be ashamed of herself.
Murphy8 Avatar
Posted: 08.02.09, 09:04 PM
If you mean that Loftus did a bad job of explaining to the audience how any of her studies relate to what therapists can, and can’t, do--I’d agree. I’m not even sure that’s possible. As for the mall study. Do you think anyone there would believe Loftus if she told them, as she told subjects in the mall study, a detailed story about their getting lost and then said a family member told her this story? Would tell her they believed this because she’s a scientist? Or would they first try to remember the story? This moderator didn’t tell the audience about Loftus’s other work. Defendants charged with raping or murdering women or children hire Loftus to testify on the stand and support their defense that the accusations are false memories or the eyewitnesses are wrong. Guys Ted Bundy and the Hillside Strangler paid Loftus to testify. More recently defendants like Phil Spector, and ex-priests like Shanley paid Loftus $500 an hour to cite her research to support their defenses. Loftus’s testimony was pretty much discredited under cross-examination, and these defendants ended up in prison.
adambl Avatar
Posted: 08.02.09, 03:48 PM
Yeah, I think she does a bad job of explaining why this stuff works. When asked point blank at the end, she hemmed and hawed a bit, and ended by saying "maybe it's to make us happier" or something. What it really is, it seems, is that if an authority figure tells you something is true, and you don't have an opinion one way or the other, you're going to listen to them. So if it's a scientist telling you you were lost in a mall or a therapist telling you you were raped, if you don't remember it, you're probably going to take their word on it.
Murphy8 Avatar
Posted: 08.02.09, 09:54 AM
Loftus appears better prepared than when I saw her give an earlier version of this talk a few years ago. But she still manages to mention the “sex with dog” memory a few times. And someone should ask her to confirm that a therapist testified to that cupcake dream interpretation. Can she cite this? While Loftus repeats the idea of false memories of child sex abuse, in reality, her research doesn’t seem to address this. For example, in the lost in a mall study she mentioned, the researchers got true information from family members about family shopping trips. Then they added a story (including true details from family members) about getting lost at the mall. Do therapists contact family members for information to make the false memories they allegedly plant more plausible? In another experiment, a photo of a hot air balloon was doctored to included a childhood head shot of the subject. Do therapists show clients doctored family photos of abuse? There’s the study that asks subjects to evaluate a colorful ad about meeting Bugs at Disneyland. Then researchers ask subjects if they shook hands with Bugs at Disneyland. Does this mean that some adults who read about child molestation then think their priest or coach or father raped them? I’m not so sure. As for the audience experiment when they were tricked with a doctored photo, when would this be relevant? How often are we shown doctored photos? And surely there must have been a psychologist in that audience who knew about some of the studies that corroborate repressed memories. Maybe a future Chautauqua speaker can address some of these issues.