The Fiction of Memory
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For several decades, Elizabeth Loftus has been manufacturing memories in unsuspecting minds. Sometimes these techniques change details of events that someone actually experienced. Other times, the techniques create entire memories of events that never happened: they create “rich false memories.” Collectively, this work shows people can be led to believe they did things that would have been rather implausible. They can be led to falsely believe 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 their 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, compared them to true memories, and discovered that once planted, those false memories look very much like true memories: they have similar behavioral characteristics, emotionality, and neural signatures. Considered as a whole, these findings raise important questions: 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 pseudomemories say about the nature of memory itself? This lecture is co-sponsored by the School of Psychol62:46ogy.