Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #273
CE Offered: BACB
The Fiction of Memory
Sunday, May 30, 2021
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Area: SCI; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Martha Pelaez (Florida International University)
CE Instructor: Martha Pelaez, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: ELIZABETH LOFTUS (University of California at Irvine)

For several decades, I have been manufacturing memories in unsuspecting minds. Sometimes these techniques change details of events that someone actually experienced. Other times, the techniques create entire memories of events that never happened: they create “rich false memories.” Collectively, this work shows people can be led to believe they did things that would have been rather implausible. They can be led to falsely believe they had experiences that would have been emotional or traumatic had they actually happened.

False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people—affecting their later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. Can we tell true memories from false ones? In several studies, I created false memories in the minds of people, compared them to true memories, and discovered that once planted, those false memories look very much like true memories: they have similar behavioral characteristics, emotionality, and neural signatures. Considered as a whole, these findings raise important questions: If false memories can be so readily planted in the mind, do we need to think about “regulating” this mind technology? And what do these pseudomemories say about the nature of memory itself?

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students. 

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1)describe some methods of studying false memories in psychological research; (2) discuss differences (or lack of) between true memories and false memories; (3) discuss implications of false memory research for psychotherapy, interrogations, and other aspects of life.
ELIZABETH LOFTUS (University of California at Irvine)
Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California - Irvine. She holds faculty positions in the Department of Psychological Science; the Department of Criminology, Law & Society, and the School of Law. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. Since then, she has published over 20 books and over 600 scientific articles. Loftus's research has focused on the malleability of human memory. She has been recognized for her research with seven honorary doctorates and election to numerous prestigious societies, including the National Academy of Sciences. She is past president of the Association for Psychological Science, the Western Psychological Association, and the American Psychology-Law Society. Loftus’s memory research has led to her being called as an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases. Some of the more well-known cases include the McMartin PreSchool Molestation case, the Hillside Strangler, the Abscam cases, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma Bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Oliver North, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and the Duke University Lacrosse players.



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