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For several decades, I have been manufacturing memories in unsuspecting minds. People can be led to believe that they did things that would have been rather implausible. They can be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been emotional or traumatic had they actually happened. False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. Can we tell true memories from false ones? In several studies, I created false memories in the minds of people, and then compared them to true memories. Once planted, the false memories look very much like true memories—in terms of behavioral characteristics, emotionality and neural signatures. If false memories can be so readily planted in the mind, do we need to think about “regulating” this mind technology? And what do these pseudo memories say about the nature of memory itself?
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Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. She holds positions in the Departments of Psychology & Social Behavior, and Criminology, Law & Society. And she is Professor of Law.
Loftus received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Psychology from UCLA, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. Since then, she has published 23 books and over 500 scientific articles. Her books have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Chinese and other foreign languages.
Loftus's research has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and also on courtroom procedure. Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation. She was elected president of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Western Psychological Association (twice), the American Psychology-Law Society, and the Experimental Psychology division of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Loftus has received seven honorary doctorates for her research, from universities in the United States, but also The Netherlands, Great Britain, Israel and Norway. Her other honors and awards are numerous.
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