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Remembering What We Don’t Remember

Ben Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn”. Here is the story of a psychologist who would differ with that statement.

If you go to Elizabeth Loftus’ Wikipeida page, you will learn about her psychological studies and how she has faced great criticism  for her studies and findings in the field of false memories. She has testified many times as an expert witness in criminal cases while qualifying as an expert in Behavioral Psychology.

You might be interested in reading more on her therapeutic studies on weight loss and controlling the desire to lose weight through psychology. For the purposes of her impact in the field of law, I have read about her studies and belief that eyewitness testimony can be altered, based on the ability to alter a person’s memory of an event.

In an experiment done in the 1970’s, they brought people in and showed them slides of a car hitting a pedestrian. They were shown a slide of a red little sports car (Datsun) at a yellow Yield sign.

Then, the “test subjects” were asked  “Did you see another car pass the Datsun at the stop sign?”. When asked that question, most of the group truly remembered a Stop sign instead of a Yield sign.

Her studies thereafter set out to prove or disprove that a person’s memory could be changed or impacted and that the accuracy of memory became inaccurate.

Her findings have caused her to testify repeatedly that eyewitness testimony can be altered, and that something as simple as words and presentation can alter memory. Her testimony can be used to attack the testimony of police officers, depending on how they interviewed witnesses.

Her testimony as an expert, versus other testimony, as sometimes been described as the “memory wars”. Her opinions do give pause on the dependability of eyewitness testimony. I wonder what Ben Franklin would say? Of course, Franklin’s memory may have been impacted a bit by his own habits. As he put it, “In wine there is wisdom; in beer there is freedom; in water there is bacteria”.


And for pic o’ day, this one made me laugh when Amy M. sent it to me:



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