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Creating False Memories - by Elizabeth F. Loftus

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Creating False Memories-by Elizabeth F. Loftus

In this article Elizabeth Loftus discusses the creation, research, and experimentation of false memories. A great deal of research has been done to determine why and how individuals create and believe memories that never occurred. It has been proven through experimentation that outside suggestions from other people and our own imaginations can create memories of fictional events.

Many lawsuits have been filed against therapists and psychiatrists who convinced patients that horrific incidents have occurred in their lives which are completely imaginary. One woman was convinced that she once belonged to a satanic cult, ate babies, witnessed a murder, and was raped. She also believed that she had over a hundred personalities that included an angel and a duck. She had been convinced of this through hypnosis and other suggestive techniques by her psychiatrist, who she sued for over two million dollars for malpractice. Another victim of dubious therapy came to believe that her father, a clergyman, raped her. Additionally, she believed he had impregnated her two times and then forced her to abort both babies using a coat hanger. Later medical examination proved that the woman had never been raped nor had an abortion; in fact, she was still a virgin. She, as well as many others who were misled to false memories, have also sued the therapists who evoked these ideas. These examples show what outlandish things people can be convinced to believe through the suggestions of an outsider.

Research and experimentation prove how simply some people can adopt false memories as their own true recollections. Every so often, people who have witnessed an event, modify the detail and memory of the initial event after being told new and misleading information. They may not do so intentionally, but it is not uncommon. Sometimes innocent suspects are presented with false evidence, and end up admitting to doing something despite their innocence.

Childhood memories are often easily distorted. Adults may change detail or not have a clear recollection of many events, purely because of the time elapsed. However, when reminded of occurrences by a relative, one may better remember an incident. It is also not uncommon to believe untrue memories of childhood. In an experiment involving twenty-four people, families provided several true occurrences that took place in the subject's life. A booklet was made for each subject that included their personal true stories, and one identical fictional story of being lost in a mall at the age of five. Seven of the twenty-four subjects claimed to have remembered the fictional story. After being told it was fictional, six of the seven people still claimed that it had happened. In another study, undergoing hypnosis and other suggesting tactics, subjects claimed memories of their infancy. This is highly unlikely, due to

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