How certain are you that your memories are real? That question drives the research of Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology and law at University of California, Irvine.
After receiving her Ph.D., Loftus was awarded a grant from the Department of Transportation to study car accidents. Loftus was interested in eyewitness accounts of such incidents, which often play a major role in the insurance claims process, as many of us are unlucky enough to learn at some point.
After showing volunteers videos of crashes, Loftus asked several follow-up questions and quickly learned that the phrasing of the question influenced the answer. If Loftus asked how fast the cars were going when they “hit” each other, volunteers estimated a slower speed than when they were asked how fast the cars were going when they “smashed” into each other. Slower by about 7 miles an hour. Car “hit”? No big deal. Car “smash”? Crisis.
Read the whole story: Slate