For several decades, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has been manufacturing memories in unsuspecting minds. Sometimes this involves changing details of events that someone actually experienced. Other times, it involves planting entire memories of events that never happened-something called "rich false memories." People can be led to believe that they have done implausible things. They can be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been emotional or traumatic had they actually happened. False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. Can we tell true memories from false ones? In several studies, Loftus created false memories in the minds of people, and then compared them to true memories. Once planted, the false memories look very much like true memories, in terms of behavioral characteristics, emotionality, and neural signatures. If false memories can be so readily planted in the mind, do we need to think about "regulating" this mind technology? And what do these pseudo-memories say about the nature of memory itself?
Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine, studies human memory. Her experiments reveal how memories can be changed by things that we are told.
Facts, ideas, suggestions and other post-event information can modify our memories. The legal field, so reliant on memories, has been a significant application of the memory research. She is also interested in psychology and law, more generally.