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Academic Psychologists are Not Immune to Memory Construction

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Originally posted on May 6, 2014.

At the 2012 International Congress of Psychology meeting in Cape Town, I enjoyed a wonderful talk by Elizabeth Loftus, which offered a terrific demo of how memory works.  Loftus showed us a handful of individual faces that we were later to identify, as if in a police line-up.  Later, she showed us some pairs of faces, one seen earlier and one not, and asked us which one we had seen.  In the midst of these, she slipped in a pair of faces that included two new faces, one of which was rather like an earlier seen face. 

Most of us understandably but wrongly identified this face as previously seen.  To climax the demonstration, when she showed us the originally seen face and the previously chosen wrong face, most of us (me, too) picked the wrong face!  As a result of our memory reconsolidation, we—an audience of psychologists who should have known better—had replaced the original memory with a false memory.

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).