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Elizabeth Loftus: An Expert In Cognitive Psychology

1522 words - 6 pages

Who is Elizabeth Loftus? Some might say a dreamer; others might say the greatest psychological theorist ever, while some might say a great person. According to the information complied by Colleen Born, Elizabeth Loftus was born on October 16, 1944 in the state of California. She grew up with her family here and got her high school diploma. With a love of math growing up she wanted to study it further as a life career, she also wanted to teach but became very interested in the human mind, questioning basic things and focusing on memories especially long term. What happens to them over time? Do they keep the same amount of truth they first originally had or not? Why? She couldn’t make her mind up on what she exactly wanted to do so she ended up getting both a bachelors of arts in psychology and math at Stanford University in 1966. Four years later she got her PHD in 1970. Throughout the 1970’s she started her research in false memories. Here is where according to Amy Wilson the controversy started and continued until the end of the 1980’s (Wilson, 2002). To this day she has written 22 books (see appendix A) and over 200 articles (Born, 1997). She sparked many peoples interest in memories and understanding how they differ with time.
Elizabeth Loftus is what we know of today as an expert in cognitive psychology. While going through school Elizabeth was very interested by the fact that human memories could change so quickly. Knowing that they could change quickly she wondered if we could make them change in anyway. This is what sparked her theory. To prove this theory, in 1974 she decided to test it out by asking multiple participates to watch a video of an accident. Directly after the video she asked them how fast they believed the cars were going. Each time she used a different word to describe the two cars interaction from collided, to smash, to hit. When she used a more intense word, like smashed or collided, the participants guessed much higher speeds. One week later she then asked everyone if there was glass at the scene. Most of the people claimed to have seen glass when in reality there was none but by asking questions and attempting to make you recall it you are more likely to “remember” it even though it did not happen (Wilson, 2013). After proving that the mind is a malleable thing and can be changed so easily she came up with another theory that us as humans have repressed memories from years previous but they aren’t as accurate as we’d like them to be. What is a repressed memory? It is a memory, usually from a traumatic event, that an individual has tried to block from their mind but can still be affecting them from their choices, actions and thoughts currently. According to Robert T. Carroll, Ph.D. of the skeptic’s dictionary, “Many psychologists believe that unconscious repression of traumatic experiences [such as sexual abuse or rape] is a defense mechanism which backfires” (Carroll, 2013). Also in the 1970’s Elizabeth began her work...

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