By Sucheta Singh
Did that happen? Was it a dream? Was it implanted? Find out more about false memory, a term used when a person recalls something that did not happen, July 26 at Douglas College from one of the most influential psychologists of our time. The psychological phenomenon was first investigated by pioneers like Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud and over the past couple of decades, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has become a lead researcher in the field of false memories.
Dr. Loftus has been called as an expert witness in cases including the Oklahoma City bombing, O.J. Simpson, the trial of the officers accused in the beating of Rodney King, the Bosnian War trials in The Hague and some famous celebrity cases like Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson and more. She has testified in over 250 cases.
Dr. Loftus’s research also probes the question of whether it is possible to implant false memories for events that never took place. Her study observed cases of repressed memories and therapists’ recall techniques.
Using a “lost in the mall” technique, her research team attempted to implant a false memory of getting lost in a shopping mall as a child in the study participants. Twenty-five percent of those who participated developed a false memory of the occurrence. This percentage grew to one-third as the study progressed. The findings resulted in stricter requirements on the use of recovered memories as evidence at trials.
Although her work can at times be divisive when it comes to court cases, Dr. Loftus is still regarded as the foremost expert in her field. You can listen to Dr. Loftus present her research and work during a free talk at Douglas College July 26 at 3pm.