Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus is an expert on Human Memory, and is well-known for her work on the Misinformation Effect and False Memories. The Misinformation Effect refers to how people’s memories may be changed by what they are told. Loftus demonstrated this in a study where subjects were shown footage of an automobile accident, and were later asked to estimate the speed of the collision.

She found that the given estimates varied in proportion to the intensity of the verb used to describe the accident. Participants gave a higher speed estimate when they were asked at what speed the cars were going when they “smashed” into each other, rather than when they were asked at what speed the cars were going when they “hit” each other.

The Misinformation Effect may cause False Memories. Loftus demonstrated that False Memories may be created by means of suggestion by using the Lost in the Mall Technique, where children were asked if they remembered the time when they got lost in a mall and were later rescued.

Although none of the children studied ever experienced getting lost in the mall, many of them reported that they did remember the event, and some were even able to provide details of the event. Loftus believed that when the children were told of the event, they imagined it happening, thereby creating a false memory where the imagined event was confused with a real event.

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