Recall your happiest memory, experience anew all the emotion it evokes… And then ask yourself: Is that memory accurate? Did it really happen as you recall it years later? Doubtful. Indeed, there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that that our memories are surprisingly fluid. Next week’s guest on The Exchange’s virtual stage is Elizabeth Loftus, a pioneer in the study of human memory. Her groundbreaking experiments reveal how memories can be changed by a variety of external influences, such as the things that we are told and the new stimuli to which we are exposed after a memory has been formed. Her research has wide ranging implications on how much faith we can place in what we have presumed to be reliable accounts of the past, impacting police procedures and legal trials but also fundamental aspects of the human experience. In the end, what can we trust if we cannot trust our own memory?
Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. She teaches in the area of Psychology and Law. Since receiving her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University, she has published over 20 books and over 600 scientific articles, many of which focus on the malleability of human memory. Her research has been recognized with seven honorary doctorates and election to the National Academy of Sciences. She has consulted or testified in many legal cases, including those involving the McMartin Preschool, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma bombing, Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, and Scooter Libby, to name a few.