Elizabeth Loftus: "Life in Memory"

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    • 00:07

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS: When I was invited hereI kind of envisioned-- I guess I need to stick here,I'm used to walking around.I kind of envisioned that I wouldbe talking to kind of a group of people who were involvedwith the center and interested in the history of psychologyand I was asked to prepare a kind of,

    • 00:27

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: or give a kind of autobiographical talk.And I'm now feeling a little bit nervousthat this is a little bit, kind of narcissisticbecause it's going to be all about me.But OK, it's all about me and I'm feelinga little weird about that.So just a few years ago there was a film producer

    • 00:53

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: in the Netherlands.His name is Wim Kayzer, and he interviewed26 writers and philosophers and artists and scientistsabout a very special topic.He asked each of us what brings beauty and consolationto your life.

    • 01:15

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And so we interviewed physicists like Freeman Dyson and LeonLederman, and he interviewed Jane Goodall,and he interviewed Germaine Greer and a bunchof other people, totaling 26.And these interviews went on Dutch television, these twohour interviews, every Sunday every other week

    • 01:36

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: for about a year.All these citizens in the Netherlandswatched these interviews.And when he came to me and he said,what brings beauty and consolation to your life?I said, well, you know, I've never really thoughtabout that question.Could you tell me what some other people said, and maybe I

    • 01:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: can tell you if it fits with me.And so he told me-- oh Stephen Jay Gould, I'm sorry,I left him out.Stephen, too.What brings beauty and consolation?And he said, well, one person said butterflies.And another person said classical music.And another person said my children.

    • 02:18

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And another person said my faith, my feelings about God.And I looked over Mozart and children and butterfliesand God and I said, no.None of those really, none of those do it for me, really.And you'll see why.And so I brought him, instead, a falsely accused couple.

    • 02:42

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: A couple who had been falsely accusedof abusing their daughter, and were insistingthat they were completely innocent,and that the daughter had been through therapyand had discovered years of horrific abusethat had allegedly been buried into the unconscious

    • 03:05

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: until the therapy made them aware of it.This is obviously not the actual couple,but a couple that looks very much like the ones Ibrought to Mr. Kayzer.And so Mr. Kayzer, who interviewed the coupleand interviewed me separately, and together,

    • 03:26

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: to try to find out what is it thatwas so beautiful and consoling to you.He said to me, you know, you're weird.You are weird.I understand classical music and children and even butterflies,but I don't understand a falsely accused couple.

    • 03:47

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So, you know, thinking back about my lifeand how I would get to the point whereI would want to bring him up falsely accused couple and dothe other kinds of things I ended up doing.I have to take you back to the 1940s.This is the telegram that my mother sent

    • 04:10

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: to my father who was away fighting World War II,and I would actually not see him until I was about a year old.Now, the telegram, I'm not sure you can really read it,it says, daughter born.I wish we were together on this special occasion.All my best wishes for a speedy reunion.Fondest, love darling, Rebecca Fishman.

    • 04:33

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I would also find other letters that my mother had writtento my father, particularly like, a dayor so after I was born saying, I know you really wanted a boy.You know, I'm sorry about that, but actually she is cute.

    • 04:54

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So, there I am with my mother.My father was still away fighting World War II.Eventually he would come home and another childwould be born.And so, my father finally got his wishto have a boy, and then another boy.And here we are, the three of us, in a garden,

    • 05:17

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: you know, pool, as you can see, along with my cousinwho was with us at the time.So we'll now jump ahead to the '50sand I managed to find my graduationfrom my junior high school.There I am graduating from junior high.

    • 05:39

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And it was about that time that something really awfulhappened.So this is the page from my diary of July 10, 1959, the daymy mother drowned.I'm not going to read it to you because even now

    • 06:02

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: my brothers say, don't say the "m" word or Beth will cry.But this is really the reason why I don't turn to God,because before my mother drowned my aunt used to teach methat there was a God.And I would say, but if I hid behind the curtain

    • 06:24

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: could God still see me?And she said, yes you can't-- you hide behind the curtain,God can still see you.But after my mother drowned, I became convinced,at the age of 14, there is no God.And so it was with some interest that Iread in Vanity Fair about Jackie Kennedy's reaction

    • 06:47

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: when she contracted cancer, which ultimately took her life.Her reaction was, I think God's unjust now.But I decided, really, I don't think he exists.He would have never taken my mother away.So then we get to the 1960s and I'm kind of recovering,and something else bad happened.

    • 07:10

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: You could read about it in Life magazine if you wanted to.This is the Life magazine from, let's see if I can see this,November 17, 1961.And the Minnesota Vikings are on the cover of Life magazine.You can see that was in the days when therewas only one African American.

    • 07:32

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Other things that were going on at the time, Kennedywas in the presidency, and so was Nehru.But the story of the week in Life magazinewas a firestorm in Southern California,in West Los Angeles.And they featured the burning down of my house.

    • 07:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So there I am, kind of calling my father at his officebecause I had come home after high school,come to the house, seen the house burning down,thinking to myself, I got to get those encyclopedias outbecause I got homework to do.But called my father to tell him,Daddy, the house isn't there anymore.

    • 08:18

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And you can see the house burning down.I actually did run in.I collected the encyclopedias.But one of the things that I worried about at the time,and this was published in Life magazine, among her regretswas she could not find her diaries, six years worth,she moaned, if anyone ever reads those.

    • 08:39

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I did eventually find the diaries.And actually, this was a fire in which456 houses were ultimately burned down,severely damaged or completely damagedas ours was at that time.So I did recover from this tragedy, too.

    • 09:01

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And I went to UCLA.I was majoring in mathematics, partly because there Iwas with dad.He was raising the three kids.He was a very busy man.He was a physician and he was a workaholic.And he was a little cold.

    • 09:21

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: He didn't have all that much timeto interact with his children because he was sobusy with his work, and so on.But I found a way to get him to talk to me.He was a math whiz himself, and I would ask himfor help with my mathematics homework,and he found he really enjoyed talking

    • 09:42

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: to the daughter about mathematics.So I majored in math in college.And I, actually, thoroughly loved algebra.I thought geometry was fantastic.I even liked trigonometry.And I was a math major, at that point.I remember saving my money one weekend.

    • 10:04

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: This is a weekend that I flew to the east coast with my savingsbecause I had a date for the Yale-Harvard game.And there I am with my little American Tourister suitcaseat the airport, at the LA airport.There's my date greeting me.And when the date picked me up at the New York airport

    • 10:25

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: to drive me up to New Haven he said,did you hear the president has been shot?And I thought I thought he was kidding.But what ultimately happened is the, as we all know,Kennedy was assassinated and the Yale-Harvard gamewas postponed.

    • 10:47

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So I went back to UCLA, back to mathematics,and then mathematics got hard.I mean, I started taking calculus and I,you know, I just couldn't really, you know,get into calculus, I have to say.So, at the time, I needed some electives.

    • 11:09

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And so I took a psychology course,Introductory Psychology, from a professor named Allen Parducci.I don't really remember very much about the courseexcept I absolutely loved it.I absolutely loved Introductory Psychologythat I took from Allen Parducci.

    • 11:31

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Later on, I would ask a current faculty member, whateverhappened to Alan Parducci?And here's an email that was sentto me by a prominent professor from UCLA.He said, he was prone to adventuresliked riding his bicycle back and forth to UCLA from Malibu

    • 11:53

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: on Sunset.Riding his one man sale board over to Catalina Island,staying overnight on the beach, and then sailing backand riding his bicycle all over Europe.And I really never knew that about Alan Parducciat the time, but, of course, he didn'tknow that I liked the beach, too,and was pretty good at the limbo.

    • 12:15

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: By the time I got done with undergraduate education,I had enough electives in psychologyto graduate with a double major.And I'm very proud of this letterthat I saved from the acting deanat UCLA who basically congratulates me

    • 12:36

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: for my performance as an undergraduate of the Universityof California.And he says, I feel that the University of Californiawill be represented very ably by you in the future.So I had to decide, well what am I going to do next?And there I was, I had this joint degree in mathematics

    • 12:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and psychology.And there was a program at Stanfordin mathematical psychology.It was a great program, a really good program.And so I moved up north for graduate school,living away from home for the very first time,and joined a group of graduate students and faculty

    • 13:19

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: in mathematical psychology.You could probably tell which one was me,and there's some really famous peoplein this particular photograph, like Gordon Bower, whowas a young professor at the time, in the front row;and Bill Estes, who was the first editor of Psycological

    • 13:39

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Science; and Richard Atkinson, whowould go on to be the chancellor of the University of CaliforniaSan Diego and, ultimately, the president of the whole UCsystem.There was a policy at Stanford where the second year graduatestudents would be assigned to mentor a first year graduate

    • 14:01

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: student.So when I got into my second yearat the Stanford Psych Department,I was assigned a mentee whose name was Geoff Loftus.Geoff rode in, looking very Marlon Brando-like.He had come from Brown, where, actually,Lou Lipsitz, who's on the board of this center,

    • 14:25

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: was one of his professors.And I think one of the things that Geoffdid is he would give me rides on his motorcycle,but I think he was really impressedwhen he realized that maybe I couldhelp repair the motorcycle.Actually, it was a pose thing.No way I could do anything like that.

    • 14:46

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And so, being the very good mentor that I was,we married the following year.The main professors that I interacted with,my master's thesis advisor, Richard Atkinson,who I've mentioned already.

    • 15:07

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And my Ph.D. advisor, Patrick Suppes, who sadly just diedthis year in his 90s.And at some point, particularly whenI was creating a kind of a intellectual ancestryfor a celebration of Patrick Suppes career,I traced his lineage all the way back up to Wilhelm Wundt,

    • 15:35

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and threw myself into it for this purpose.There were a couple of other professorswho were very important along the way.One was Gordon Bower, who went onto be an extremely important memorypsychologist, and Jonathan Friedman, a professorin social psychology, but who got me reallyinterested in studying memory.

    • 15:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And so while I was a grad student,I actually did some studies of semantic memory.And I publish those studies with Jonathan Friedmanas my co-author.These were studies of people's-- semantic memory is your memoryfor words and concepts and your-- kind of your knowledgeof the world.Your knowledge that a chair is a kind of furniture or a parakeet

    • 16:23

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: is a kind of bird.It's a kind of memory, and that'sthe kind of thing I studied.I'm going to move you to the 1970s.I ultimately would take a job and we, Geoff and I,had a two body problem.Finally, we found two jobs together in the Psychology

    • 16:45

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Department at the University of Washington.And it was really around that time,so, a few years post Ph.D., that I decided to startstudying eyewitness testimony.And the way it happened is this.I was studying semantic memory.I went out to lunch with a cousin of mine

    • 17:08

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: who was a lawyer, and she said to me, oh, you'rean experimental psychologist.Well, have you made any discoveries?And I said, well, yes.I have made some discoveries.Well, give me an example.I said, well I discovered, with Jonathan Friedman,that people are faster to give you

    • 17:30

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: the name of a bird that's yellow than to give youthe name of the yellow bird.They are 250 milliseconds faster,about a quarter of a second.And we discovered that.And my cousin said to me, and how muchdid we pay for that result?

    • 17:51

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And it was really as a result of that lunch that I thought,I really want to do some work thathas more immediate and obvious social relevance.And so, what was that going to be?At the time, my father had contracted cancer,and I wished I could study cancer.But I didn't know anything about cancer.

    • 18:12

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I knew something about memory and Ihad a longstanding interest in legal issues.And a natural marriage those two interestsand abilities was the study of witnessesto crimes and accidents and other legally relevant events.And so I began to do a series of studies asking

    • 18:34

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: this question, what happens when people seean accident or a crime, some important event,and are questioned about their experiences?I began showing people films of traffic accidents.Traffic accidents because I managedto get some funding from the US Department of Transportation,and they cared about accidents.

    • 18:55

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I did an early study with an undergraduateat the University of Washington in which we showed peoplea simulated accident and we questioned themabout the accident, but different witnesseswere questioned in different ways.So some of them were asked how fastwere the cars going when they smashed into each other?Others were asked how fast were the cars going

    • 19:17

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: when they hit each other?And you can see that our subject witnesses saidthe cars were going faster if we used the smashword than the hit word.And moreover, when we came back to them a week later and said,by the way, did you see any broken glass in that accidentthat we showed you last week, thosewho'd been asked the leading question about

    • 19:38

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: smashed we're more likely to say they saw broken glass thatdidn't exist at all.Back then I also did a study that is cited frequentlyin introductory textbooks where we showed peoplea simulated accident where a car goes through an intersectionwith a stop sign.

    • 19:58

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And by asking a single leading question thatsuggests it was the yield sign, weget lots and lots of people to believe and remember theysaw yield sign, not a stop sign.And I then began to see these questions-- whatI was doing with these questions, at least the way Iwas conceptualizing what was happening here,

    • 20:21

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: is these questions are just a vehicle for communicatinginformation, sometimes misinformation,to another person.And we developed this idea of the misinformation effect,where if you expose people to misinformation,whether it's through questions, whether it's

    • 20:41

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: through some other means, like hearing another person'sversion, this misinformation can contaminatepeople's recollections, so that if you come back and testpeople, they're responding on the basisof a contaminated recollection.Now, one of the early critics of my work,

    • 21:02

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: actually, is having dinner with us tonight.Maria Zaragoza, who's currently the chairof Psychology at Kent State, who Iwas very surprised to see here.But I think mostly she and I pretty much,kind of, agree with each other.That there is something called the misinformation effect.That if you expose people to misinformation about some event

    • 21:23

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: that they have experienced, it will negativelyaffect the accuracy of what they report.And so we and others then began to ask, like psychologists do,a series of questions about this phenomenon, the misinformationeffect.What are the conditions under which peopleare especially susceptible?

    • 21:45

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: What kinds of people are especially susceptible?Do these people really believe in what they're saying,or are they just going along with itto give you the answer they think you want to hear?And once we contaminate their memory with misinformation,what happens to the underlying original memory thatwas once stored?

    • 22:08

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: In the midst of a lot of this early work,I wrote an article for Psychology Today magazine.And you have to remember that, despite whathappened to the magazine later, that in the 1970sthis was a really popular magazine.And I wrote an article summarizingsome of these early studies, summarizing

    • 22:28

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: some work I did when I volunteeredto work to help the defense and to studyan actual case in which somebody was ultimately acquitted.I wrote this article.The audience for this magazine consistedof lots of judges and lawyers and other membersof the legal profession, as well aslots of people just interested in psychology in general.

    • 22:52

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And it was then that people started to call.Also, I spent a year at the Centerfor Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.That's the class that I was in.It was that year that I wrote my first bookon eyewitness testimony in which I just reviewed

    • 23:13

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: the literature in the field.And because of the, I would say, the Psych todayarticle and then, ultimately, the book, lawyersstarted to call.They wanted to know would you work on my case?Would you lecture to my group?

    • 23:33

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Would you tell me how I can ask questions to affect witnesses?They had all kinds of things they wanted to know from me.And so I began to consult on lotsof different kinds of cases.Cases of people whom you might have heard of that werementioned in the introduction, and many people who youhaven't.

    • 23:55

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Even though this is sort of what I look like nowadays, back whenI started testifying, I was like 30 years old.I thought I should look more, you know, official.I learned how to do a tie because I thought that mademe more authoritative.But I don't bother with that anymore.OK, jump to the 1990s.

    • 24:20

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I got involved in a court case, a murder case,that really would change the direction of whatI was doing and thinking.You're looking at a man named George Franklin.He was accused of murder.He was accused of murdering a little girl 20 years earlier.And the only evidence against him

    • 24:41

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: was the testimony of his daughter, Eileen Franklin, whosaid that she was there when she was eight years old, that shesaw her father murder her little best friend,and that she repressed her memory for these decades,and now the memory had come back.

    • 25:01

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I remember the lawyer for George Franklin saying,what do you know about this idea of repression?I said well, you know-- and he is, he was,a very experienced attorney.He'd been a public defender.Lots of trial experience, lots of murder cases.He'd never had a case like this, and neitherhad I. And I said, well, it's kind of this hand me

    • 25:22

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: down, Freudian idea but I-- and I probably used the word,but I'm not sure I have any idea what the evidence is.And so I started to look and I was absolutely shocked.There was no credible scientific support for the ideathat you can witness a series of murders as she was claiming,that you could be sexually abused

    • 25:43

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: for an extended period of time, and that you could repressall this into the unconscious.There was no credible scientific support.And yet, the jury believed this confident detail testimonythat the daughter gave and convicted George Franklin.He became virtually the first American citizen

    • 26:04

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: to be convicted of murder based on nothing other than a claimof massive repression.And I was shocked, as was his attorney.But I thought, well, you know, thisis going to be the end of my involvement with repression,because how many people are goingto come forward and say they repressedtheir memory for witnessing a murder.

    • 26:25

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: It turns out they didn't come forward and say that,but plenty of them came forward to say that they had repressedtheir memory of horrific sexual abuse,and now their memories had come back.The actress Roseanne said she repressedher memory of her mother molesting herwhen she was six months old, and then

    • 26:47

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: claimed her father joined in laterto commit these molestations.Some of these accusations were so bizarre.These people developed, supposedly,derepressed memories of being forced into satanic ritualsby their family members.Being forced to watch animal sacrifice.Being forced into baby breeding and baby sacrifice when there

    • 27:11

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: was no physical evidence that couldcorroborate any of these claims.And the paradigm that I had been using,the misinformation paradigm, reallywasn't going to cut it here.People, I think, were right to say,if you want to talk about memory distortion on the same page,

    • 27:34

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: in the same paragraph, as you're talking about peopleremembering 11 years of abuse that's repressed,at least show us that you can plantand entirely false memory into the minds of peoplefor something that didn't happen.And I sat around for the longest time

    • 27:56

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: with my graduate students and otherstrying to think about how we could do this.The idea that we had was, well, that we'll start with no eventat all and then we'll just ply peoplewith suggestions about their pastand see if we can test them and see what they remember,but what kind of false memory should we try to plant?

    • 28:18

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: As you may know, colleges and universitieshave human subject review committees, ethics committees.They review proposals for researchinvolving human beings.It seemed highly unlikely that my ethics committeewas going to look too kindly on a proposalthat we're going to make people believe that daddy raped

    • 28:38

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: them and satanic rituals and that they are now rememberingthis.So we needed an analog, and that'swhat a lot of psychological work is about, an analog.Something that would have been at least mildly traumaticif it actually had happened.And so we did ultimately come up with the idea

    • 28:59

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: let's try to plant a memory that whenyou were five or six years old youwere lost in a shopping mall.You were frightened, crying, ultimately rescuedby an elderly person and reunited with the family.And we succeeded after about three suggestive interviewsin getting about a quarter of our sample of ordinary men

    • 29:22

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and women to fall sway to this suggestionand begin to remember this made up experience.Other investigators came along and planted false memoriesof things that would have been even more bizarre or upsetting.You were attacked by a vicious animal,you nearly drowned and had to be rescued by a lifeguard,

    • 29:43

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: you had an accident at a family wedding,succeeding with lots and lots of subjects.Other investigators and we, too, devise methodsfor looking at other techniques that could lead peopleto false memories, like guided imagination and dreaminterpretation.Some of the things that we saw going on

    • 30:05

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: in some questionable psychotherapy thatseemed to precede the emergence of these repressed memories.So I was busy now working on what we nowcall rich false memories when something bad happened.By the way, a lot of people hated this work.

    • 30:26

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So even before the something bad happenedthat I'm going to tell you about, I had lots of hate mail.I had lots of people drumming up letter writing campaignsto the president of my university,the governor of the state, the chairs of my department'strying to get me fired from my job.I would give speeches, like at the University of Michigan,

    • 30:49

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: you know, prominent state universitieswhere there were death threats and so theyhad to hire bodyguards to accompany meduring the whole time that I was visiting the university.But none of that bothered me as much aswhat happened after I read an article by a psychiatrist

    • 31:10

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: in which he purported to have the new proofof repressed memories.He claimed that he had videotaped this woman as shefirst, couldn't remember abuse by her mother,and now the abuse came back.This was a mother abuse situation, somewhat unusual,but that's what it was in the case of Jane Doe.

    • 31:36

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I do admit that I put some energy into crackingthe anonymity of this case historyand I'm kind of proud of the fact that maybe280 million people in America at that timeand I found the Doe family.And once I found the Doe family, then I

    • 31:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: could get into the divorce file because they hadn'tsealed their divorce file.And if I've learned anything from this experience,if you have a messy divorce, seal your divorce file so thatpeople like me cannot get in there.Anyhow, once I, and I acquired a co-author,a Professor from the University of Michigan

    • 32:18

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: ultimately for this project.We're getting ready to write an expose, which we ultimatelydid, Jane Doe complained to my former university.And with 15 minutes notice, they seized my filesand put me under investigation for some suspected wrongdoing.I was gagged and couldn't speak about this case

    • 32:40

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: for a number of years until they resolved this and exoneratedme.But I was mad, because there had beenat this university, at that point, taughtfor more than a quarter of a century,had been a loyal, good girl facultymember trying to right a wrong, and now Iwas under investigation.

    • 33:02

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: And so, in the early 2000s, when the Universityof California Irvine came along with this incredible joboffer and a distinguished professor titleand a 50% salary increase and a bunch of money to set up a laband continue my work, I decided to move.

    • 33:23

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I was in my late 50s and moved by myself.Where I live in California, the places are kind of a small.And where I lived in Washington therewere many more square feet.So I couldn't bring all my stuff with me.So I had to get rid of half of my books

    • 33:44

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and a half of my dishes, which I never usedanyhow, and a half of my clothes,and here is the yard sale with my stuff.I left the house where I had lived with a beautiful viewof Lake Washington.I left the breakfast group where Ihad breakfast with a group, an interesting group, of people

    • 34:06

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: you know, a CPA, a master's level therapist,a neuroscience, a 90-plus year old sculptor,a couple of UPS drivers.We use to eat at a Tully's for breakfast every morning.We called ourselves TTT for the Tully's Think Tank.

    • 34:26

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I left all of them and I moved to the University of Californiawhere I found, you know, a great reception.And of course, I have a lot of fondnessfor the university bringing me in in this way.But I was only there six months when Jane Doe--

    • 34:48

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: we had published the expose, we stillused the anonymity, Jane Doe, we didn't name her--but she filed a lawsuit against me.She filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, defamation, libel,slander, even though we never used her name.She asked for $1.3 million.She also sued my co-author, Mel Guyer.

    • 35:10

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: She sued my good friend and psychologist, Carol Tavris,whom we had thanked in a footnote for helpwith the article.And so we went through 4 and 1/2 years of litigationbefore this case was finally resolved.It was actually resolved as recently as 2009when Jane Doe filed for bankruptcy.

    • 35:33

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: But, in any event, I was finally able to really get backto my work.I mean, I never really stopped working,but one of the things I wanted to look at nextwas this question, back to work.If I plant a false memory in you,does it have repercussions?

    • 35:54

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Does it affect your thoughts, your intentions,or even your behavior?Working with a postdoc and two graduate students whomyou see there, we started by planting a false memorythat you got sick eating a particular foodbecause we thought, if I could getyou to believe you got sick as a child eating hard boiled egg

    • 36:17

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: or eating dill pickles, then I could look and see maybeyou don't want these foods as much,and I would be showing the repercussionsof this false memory.And so the way we did this, and now we'regetting much more efficient in our abilityto plant false memories.It used to be so time consuming, ran people individually,had to talk to their parents, and so on.

    • 36:38

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: We now know how to plant a false memoryin the mind of a whole room full of people at one time.Just to show you a little bit about this method,we bring people in, we ask them a whole lotof questions about food interests,about their personality, and so forth.This is just so that we can make whatfollows seem more credible.

    • 36:58

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: They come back a week later.We tell them our really smart computerprogram analyzed all their data and determinedcertain things happened to them when they were a child,and then we ask them some questions.So Johnny Jones gets a profile.He thinks his is special and unique.It tells him that he got sick eating a hard-boiled egg.

    • 37:19

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: He doesn't realize that lots of other people in that roomare also getting the identical profile.He then tells us what he wants to eat at a hypothetical partywhere the hard boiled eggs are on the list.And for other subjects we planted,you got sick on pickles, pickles are on that list, too.Here's how much people want to eat pickles and eggs if they

    • 37:41

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: hadn't gotten any false feedback at all.You can see they slightly prefer the eggsto the pickles in this hypothetical party,but we don't even care about that.Here's how much they want the foodif they were exposed to our manipulationbut they didn't fall for it, not much happens.Here's how much they want the foodsif they were exposed to the manipulation

    • 38:02

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and developed a false belief or memory.They don't want the foods as much.And I will tell you, this is reallyone of the great moments in the lifeof an experimental psychologist, where the graduate studentsbring in the Excel spreadsheets and show you the graphs,and show you what we're finding.I looked at these data and I said, this is fantastic.

    • 38:26

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: If this would work for a fattening food-- thinkabout it, I mean, we could be on the brink of a new dieting fad,move over Atkins.And so after we had shown you could plant this false memoryand people didn't want the food as much,we did it with a fattening food.We did with strawberry ice cream, same methodology,

    • 38:48

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: get a bunch of data from people.A week later we fed all your datainto our really smart computer program.Here's what we learned probably happened to you.You fell ill after eating strawberry ice cream.This subject, like all subjects, has to dwell on this,think about how it might have happened,imagine how it might have happened.If he or she here remember it, how

    • 39:09

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: she would have felt. And then, ultimately,tell us what she wants to eat at a party.Here's how much people want strawberry ice creamwithout any feedback.Here's how much if they were exposed to the manipulationbut didn't fall for it.And here's how much they wanted if theywere exposed to the manipulation and fell for it.They don't want that strawberry ice cream as much.

    • 39:32

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Ultimately we would show on further studiesthat this affected not just what people saidthey want to eat at a party, but you put food in front of themand they don't eat as much of that food.Or you can expose them to a menu of food even sometime later,and they don't eat as much of that food.More recently we've shown you can have these effects not just

    • 39:55

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: on food but also with alcohol.We made people believe and rememberthat as a teenager they got sick drinking a vodka drink.And now, after they fall for that-- get a false beliefor memory, they don't want a vodka drink as much.So far this hasn't worked with me,

    • 40:16

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: but it does seem to work with the subject.We asked if, you know, if you could plant a negative memoryand people don't want the food is much,could you do the opposite?Could you plant a positive, warm, fuzzy memory and maybepeople would want it more, and we did itwith a healthy food in this particular studywith asparagus.

    • 40:37

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: So this is, I have to say, one of the great thingsabout being an experimental psychologist,working in the lab with subjects,getting ideas for research, and tryingto answer the questions that lots of people ask us.So lots of people ask us, is there

    • 40:58

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: any way to tell the difference between a true memoryand a false one?You might think that people who have a true memorywould be more emotional about their memory than peoplewho have a false memory that has been suggested to them.But in work done in collaboration with Cara Laney,we planted false memories in the minds of some people.

    • 41:20

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: We found others who actually had had those experiences.And when we compared their emotional reactions,they were equivalent.You might think, well maybe the neural signalswould be different for a true memory than a false memory.But in conjunction with Okado and Stark,two people who know a lot about functional magnetic resonance

    • 41:42

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: imaging, I'll leave that FMRI machine up there,we essentially got people to report true or false memorieswhile they're being scanned, and the overwhelming impressionis the similarity of the neural signals.More recently, we've asked what are the conditions under whichpeople are more susceptible.We just published a paper with Stephen Frienda

    • 42:04

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: my former grad student, as the first authoron sleep deprivation where we actuallydeprive people of sleep and othersare not deprived of sleep.And we find that being sleep deprivedleads you to produce even more false memories.This is especially important in light of the factthat some interrogations, particularly of suspects,

    • 42:26

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: are done under grueling circumstanceswhere there is a lot of fatigue and sleep deprivation.You might wonder if everyone is susceptible to these kindsof influences.Is anybody immune?We had a chance to study a very special group of people.These are people who have superior autobiographical

    • 42:49

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: memories.In fact, they've been featured on 60 minutesand they are being studied by a colleague of minein neurobiology.They can remember just about everythingthey did every day of their adult life.They're really an extraordinary group of people.And in collaboration with the lab thathas access to these people, we asked, well,

    • 43:09

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: what would happen if we put them in some of these memorydistortion studies.Will they be immune?Will they be susceptible?It almost didn't matter how this study turned out,it was going to be interesting.And so we took the people was superior memories,we then found a group of age match controls.We ran them through a battery of false memory tasks,

    • 43:31

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: and they were just as susceptible.And the most recent paper that we justsubmitted for publication-- well let me just say,I guess I could more accurately call thisa paper that's between rejections,we know it's going to find a home someday soon, hopefully.

    • 43:52

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: Stephen Frienda is the first author of this paper.Just getting people to create stories,to essentially lie and create a story about themselves,especially one that puts them in a kind of heroic role,is enough to lead people to startto believe that these stories-- like you found a cat stuckin a tree when you were a kid and you rescued it--

    • 44:15

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: that these experiences actually happened to the subjects.I landed on my feet at my current university.I was given the UCI Medal, which is one of the highest honorsthat, I'm proud to say, that the University of California Irvinehas to give out.

    • 44:35

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I was elected to the National Academyof Sciences, the first woman faculty member on my campus.And there the chancellor has the National Academy membersover once a year for dinner.I don't know if you see anything similar about this,but I do I have to say that, since then,there now are a few more women who have been elected

    • 44:57

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: a to the National Academy, one in cognitive sciencesand another in chemistry.I've made a whole bunch of interesting friendsand I can hang out on New Year's Eve.And I still spend a lot of time with my brothers.They're the ones who say, don't say the "m" wordor Beth will cry.

    • 45:19

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: They have given me some terrific nieces and nephews.I think I'm going to skip over talkingabout the ethical issues that arise from this workand just leave you with one take home message.I've been working on these problems now for 40 yearsand if I learned anything, it's this.That just because somebody tells you

    • 45:41

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: something with a whole lot of confidence,just because they describe it in a lot of detail,just because they express emotionwhen they tell you about it, it doesn'tmean that it actually happened.You need independent corroborationto know whether you're dealing with a genuine memory or onethat's a product of some other process.

    • 46:04

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: I think, you know, such a realizationmight have made a difference for George Franklin.Such a realization has helped me become a little bitmore tolerant of the mistakes that I see friends and familymembers around me sometimes make.It was George Franklin, I think, who learned the hard way,

    • 46:25

      ELIZABETH LOFTUS [continued]: as did many other people whom I've had a chance to meet,that memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing.So thank you for-- thank you for listening.Thank you.Thank you.

Elizabeth Loftus: "Life in Memory"

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Abstract

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus reflects on her life and career in the psychology of memory. She is well known for her research into repressed memories and her collaboration with the criminal justice system in determining eyewitness reliability. She has spent decades challenging the idea that repressed memories are always true.

Elizabeth Loftus: "Life in Memory"

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus reflects on her life and career in the psychology of memory. She is well known for her research into repressed memories and her collaboration with the criminal justice system in determining eyewitness reliability. She has spent decades challenging the idea that repressed memories are always true.

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