Memory-manipulation expert Elizabeth Loftus explains how our memories might not be what they seem — and how implanted memories can have real-life repercussions.

Why you should listen

Elizabeth Loftus altered the course of legal history by revealing that memory is not only unreliable, but also mutable. Since the 1970s, Loftus has created an impressive body of scholarly work and has appeared as an expert witness in hundreds of courtrooms, bolstering the cases of defendants facing criminal charges based on eyewitness testimony, and debunking “recovered memory” theories popular at the time, as in her book The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse (with Katherine Ketcham).

Since then, Loftus has dedicated herself to discovering how false memories can affect our daily lives, leading her to surprising therapeutic applications for memory modification -- including controlling obesity by implanting patients with preferences for healthy foods.

What others say

"Loftus... has demonstrated repeatedly how unreliable memory is, going so far as to show that full-grown adults can have entire fake memories implanted in their psyches" — Stanford Magazine

Elizabeth Loftus’ TED talks

Elizabeth Loftus on the TED Blog
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Think you’ve got a terrible memory? You don’t know the half of it

February 19, 2014

Last year, MIT neuroscientists Xu Liu and Steve Ramirez manipulated the memory of a mouse. In a fascinating and mildly troubling breakthrough caused by a laser and the protein channelrhodopsin, they “activated” fear memories in a mouse. The impetus, says Ramirez, was the awful feeling of a break-up, the desire, Eternal Sunshine-style, to erase the […]

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Elizabeth Loftus on embedding false memories in U.S. soldiers

September 23, 2013

“We can’t reliably distinguish true memories from false memories,” declares psychologist Elizabeth Loftus in today’s talk. She’s spent the past forty years studying the memory, and has reached some mind-blowing conclusions about what we know, and what we think we know. Here, she shares more detail about her work, and suggests further reading for anyone […]

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Science

Want to know more about the unreliable nature of memory? Read this

September 23, 2013

Elizabeth Loftus studies false memories. As she describes in her TED Talk, The fiction of memory, she has implanted erroneous memories of childhood trauma into adult study subjects as part of her work. She has pinpointed failures in eyewitness testimonies. She’s found that misinformation can reshape taste preferences. And, she’s found that people in stressful […]

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