Elizabeth Loftus On Campus Oct. 26; Expert on Repressed Memories

Elizabeth Loftus, considered one of the foremost experts in the study of repressed memory and its consequences on eyewitness testimony and the successful application of the law, will discuss “Illusions of Memory,” during her lecture at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Wednesday, Oct. 26. Remarks will include the power of imagination and suggestion in the formation of personal memory, as well as their effects on long-term thought and future behavior. She also will discuss legal ramifications of flawed memories and false beliefs, as they relate to the role of the witness in modern legal systems.

The public portion of the program begins at 6:45 p.m. Seating is free, on a first-come basis.

Loftus, a distinguished professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an affiliate professor for the psychology department and School of Law at the University of Washington, has written more than 400 scientific articles and 20 books and on the subject of false memories, including Eyewitness Testimony (Harvard University Press, 1979), awarded the National Media Award by the American Psychological Foundation. In her summary of research interests, Loftus states: “I study human memory. My experiments reveal how memories can be changed by things we are told. Facts, ideas, suggestions, and other forms of post-event information can modify our memories.

“The legal field,” she says, “so reliant on memories, has been a significant application of the memory research. My interest in psychology and law, more generally, has grown from this application.”

Using her experience in a slightly different way, Loftus and her assistants at UCI recently surveyed 131 students about food preferences and memories, curious as to whether the planting of false memories affects a person’s diet. As reported in TIME magazine, members of one group were told, erroneously, that as children, eating strawberry ice cream made them sick. When further pressed to elaborate about foods they liked to eat, about 40 percent of that group’s respondents said they would avoid strawberry ice cream. Says Loftus, in her conclusion, “What we’ve shown is that we can plant a false belief or memory, and that has consequences in terms of what we choose to eat.”

Loftus’ research has won numerous honors, including the 1995 Distinguished Contribution to Basic and Applied Scientific Psychology Award from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, and the 2001 Williams James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society. A UCLA graduate, she received master’s and doctorate degrees from Stanford University.

The Athenaeum is located at 385 E. Eighth St. on the CMC campus. For more information: 909-621-8244.