Dr. Loftus has studied memory in several different settings and in several different ways, though she always found similar results. The following studies conducted by Dr. Loftus as well as by some of her esteemed colleagues are evidence that her theory that memory is malleable and extremely susceptible has been confirmed time and time again.

Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness, and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham

Although this book contains no monsters or ghosts this is one of the scariest books that I have ever read. Witness for the Defense is divided into two parts: Part One is the background for the book including two chapters; Chapter one is the "Trials of a psychologist" and chapter two is titled "The Magic of the Mind." Chapters one and two set the reader up for Part Two of the book where Dr. Loftus goes into some of the many high profile cases where she testifies on behalf of the defendant about memory. Dr. Loftus talks in detail about many different high profile cases such as: Steve Titus who was arrested and convicted of raping Nancy Van Roper in October of 1980. Titus' conviction was later overturned when another man confessed to the crime; Titus was convicted based on the eyewitness testimony of the victim after the victim was shown a biased photo lineup. Dr. Loftus was asked to testify on Titus' behalf and to discuss the faultiness of the photo lineup and the victim's identification. Another case that Dr. Loftus mentions is that of Sgt. Timothy Hennis who was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a mother and her two children in 1985. In 1989 Hennis' second trial began and the denfense team brought in two "Mr. X" letters. These letters written by "Mr. X" eventually led to Hennis' acquittal of the crime. For this case Dr. Loftus was asked to present to the jury how a person's memory works differently under duress, she was also asked questions during her testimony about weapon focus. Several other cases were mentioned and Dr. Loftus' recounts of her time on the cases were as detailed as possible relying on conversations between her and the attorneys, transcripts, and her memory as well (more on conversations and transcripts, due to the fallability of memory). This book is an eye opener for anyone who reads it, we want to believe in the justice system and we want to believe that if we were put in positions similar to those in this book that we would be found innocent if we truly were. In Witness for the Defense, Dr. Loftus' recounts of these cases shows that the justice system has flaws just like anything else and does not always work the way it is supposed to.   

Aspargus, a Love Story: Healthier Eating Could Be Just a False Memory Away

Authors: Daniel M. Bernstein, Cara Laney, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Erin K. Morris, and Briana M. Wakefield

Bernstein, Laney, Loftus, Morris, & Wakefield (2008) wanted to test a positive false memory effect by suggesting to participants that they had love a certain food as children, in this instance the food they were suggesting that participants had loved was asparagus. After making the initial suggestionis the researchers looked for consequences of these new positive beliefs; consequences that the researchers were looking for included: an increased liking of asparagus and an intention to eat asparagus in a restaraunt type setting. Bernstein, et al. specified that they used asparagus as the target food becuase of its sophisticated, bitter taste which would be a reason for a child to not enjoy eating asparagus. This experiment was set up to determine whether or not subjects had developed a false memory or belief after the researchers had suggested that they had loved to eat a specific food as a child. After determining if the participants had developed a false belief the researchers then looked for consequences of this false belief, which included an increased willingness to eat asparagus and an overall general liking of asparagus.

The subjects were 128 students at the University of California, Irvine; the subjects were mostly females with a mean age of 20.8 and all subjects received course credit for their time. There was a random assignment to either the 'love' group or the control group and participants were run in groups of up to eight.

When participants arrived for Session 1 they were told that they would complete a series of questionnaires and that these questionnaires were part of a study of the relationship between "food preferences and personality." The first survey completed was the 24-item Food History Inventory (FHI) that included the target item "Loved asparagus the first time you tried it." Participants also completed a restaraunt questionnaire; the restaraunt questionnaire assessed how much they wanted to eat each of about 32 separate dishes, which included the critical item "sauteed asparagus spears." The participants also completed three "filler" questionnaires that were designed to hide what the researchers were actually studying; these questionnaires were the a personality measure, a subset of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, and a survey that assessed a person's eating habits.

Session 2 took place approximately one week later and at that time participants were given false feedback about the results of their questionnaires. The participants were told that their responses had been entered into a computer which had generated a profile over their early childhood experiences with certain food. For every participant there was a portion of the "individual" profile that was the same for all, but the critical item "you loved to eat cooked asparagus" was in the profile for the Love group. The researchers wanted to make sure that all participants processed their feedback so they had them answer brief questions about a filler item in the profile and the Love group also answered a questions about the asparagus item. 


Bernstein, et al. found that the Love group's ratings of the critical item changed after the manipulation (the profile), however they excluded 31 subjects (17 from the Love group and 14 from the control group) because these participants were reasonably sure that they had actually loved asparagus the first time they tried it before the profile had been generated.  


This study found that false beliefs can be implanted in a person's mind about their experiences with certain foods and that these false beliefs can actually lead to an increased liking of those foods. Nearly half of the participants in the study were convinced that they had liked asparagus the first time they had tried it as child even though when they began the study they were confident that this was in fact not the case. Participants in the Love group had a higher intentions of eating asparagus in a restaraunt and were more willing to pay for the asparagus.

Me Too!: Social Modelling Influences of Early Autobiographical Memories

Authors: Suzanne O. Kaasa, Elizabeth F. Loftus, and Tiamoyo Peterson

Kaasa, Loftus, and Peterson (2009) used social modelling in hope that they would be able to influences participants to remember false memories or memories that occurred during the infantile amnesia age range by exposing them to confederates who talked about "memories" from their childhood that were not real and had been scripted. The purpose of the study was to explore the effects of simply hearing another person talk about their own personal memories. Group therapy is one instance when researchers believe that hearing another person's memories can be indirectly suggestive to their own memories. Kaasa, et al. wanted to explore these biasing effects and used a social modelling setting, where participants gathered together to try and achieve a "group therapy" like setting.

In order to get the highest amount possible of false memories the researchers asked the participants to recall their earliest childhood memory. The researchers believed that these memories were likely to the most susceptible because the amount of time that has gone by since the memory happened. Again, though, the researchers wanted these memories recalled because of the chance of the memories being recalled during the infantile amnesia period. Earliest memories are generally reported during the ages of 3 to 5 so the range for infantile amnesia would be between birth and 3 years old. The goal of this study was to influence an autobiographical memory of the participant through suggestive social influences using confederates. The researchers believed that the social modelling influences would show up into two different ways. The first way the researchers hypothesized that the social modelling would show up was from participants in the experimental group because they were expected to state that their memories came from a time period that was significantly earlier than those in the control group. The second way the social modelling was expected to show up was in the confidence the participants had toward their memories for these very early events.
This study used 200 undergraduate students from the University of California, Irvine, the students were recruited to take part and were receiving extra credit. One hundred sixty-three of the participants were female (82%) and 37 were male. The 200 participants were randomly divided into the experimental group (the discussion group) and the control group. Ninety-seven participants were put into the discussion group and were exposed to the confederate's early memories and 103 participants were put into the control group.

The sessions were 30 minutes and participants were told that they were taking part in an experiment on early memory. Each session of the study consisted of one researcher, two confederates and up to two participants. Participants in the control group were told that 'studies have shown that thinking about early memories can stimulate recall of even earlier memories' and then control participants were given time to think about their earliest memory. After this time period the participants were to fill out a questionnaire packet. In the experimental (discussion) condition, participants were told that 'studies have shown that talking about early memories can stimulate recall of even earlier memories' and then the researcher began by describing a scripted memory having to do with her second birthday. After the researcher finished describing her memory the first confederate described their scripted memory about taking their first steps and then the second confederate described their scripted memory about being bitten by a dog at the age of one. The researchers tried to control the seating of the confederates so that they could be called on in the correct order, all memories of the researcher and the confederates were scripted and memorized so they did not differ. If by chance a participant sat in a seat that was where a confederate was to sit in then instead of calling on the confederates the researcher would instead ask for volunteers and the confederates would volunteer in the order they were supposed to tell their memories in. After the discussion the participants again completed the questionnaire while the confederates were completing a predetermined writing task so that the participants thought they were all filling out the same questionnaire.

The first part of the questionnaire was a free-response measure where participants were asked for a description of the earliest memory that they were able to recall. The participants were also asked to describe how old they were at the time of the memory and were then asked to rate their clarity of the memory and how certain they were about their age at the time of the memory. After assessing their clarity and certainty of the memory, participants completed a Life Events Inventory (LEI) for events that took place in early childhood. Participants rated 27 memories on a 7-point Likert scale with higher ratings showing more confidence about the memory. From the LEI an Infantile Amnesia Subscale was created from seven of the LEI items, these items asked about events occurring before age three. These items included: first steps, saying your first word, first sentences, sleeping in a crib, drinking from a bottle, being in a baby swing, and recalling your first birthday and for this subscale alpha = .63. The entire session including the debriefing and questionnaire packet, on average, took less than 30 minutes.


There was a significantly greater number of memories occurring during the infantile amnesia range in the discussion condition than in the control condition. Neither gender nor number of participants in a particular session had an effect of the age of the earliest memory reported by participants. There was also not a significant difference in clarity of the earliest memory between the conditions. The participants that were placed in the discussion condition showed more confidence of the event that they recalled than did the participants in the control condition. In other words, discussion participants were more confident, overall, that they had recalled an event from the infantile amnesia period. 


This study examined the effects of social modelling on autobiographical memories and found that participants in the discussion group had memories that were affected in three ways. The first way that memories were affected was that participants who listened to the confederates reported memories that on average happened a full year earlier than those who did not hear the confederates. Secondly, the Kaasa, et al., found that the group discussion also extended to the recall of specific real life events. Lastly, participants in the discussion group showed signs that they had been directly affected by the memories of the confederate by giving higher confidence ratings for recall of their first steps, the first memory described by a confederate. Participants felt that their memories were the results of actually remembering, this was evidenced by the fact that the discussion participants and the control participants were equally certain about the clarity and details of their memory. This study mimicked real world situations that could lead to false memories in individuals because the participants were not directly given suggestions, but were just told to recall the earliest memory that possibly could.