Falsifying memories

The Guardian:

As a Ph.D. student, the young Elizabeth Loftus wasn’t captivated by calculus: “I used to sit in the back of the seminars, kind of bored, writing letters to my Uncle Joe, or hemming skirts or whatever”. The only girl enrolled on Stanford’s mathematical psychology graduate program, she was voted the least likely to succeed in psychology by her peers, but she went on to become one of the most highly cited psychologists of all time – and also one of the most controversial. Here’s my profile of her, in the current issue of Nature.

In the 1970s, Loftus published a series of influential studies about the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. She has been trying to make the implications of her findings known ever since, but only now is her work is beginning to have a real impact. As an expert witness, Loftus has testified on behalf of mass murderers, but that’s the least controversial aspect of her work. Her role in legal cases involving allegations of childhood sexual abuse based on recovered memories has made her the target of lawsuits and death threats, and her research into using false memories to modify behaviour is regarded by some as highly unethical.

Read the whole story: The Guardian

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