Monday, November 9, 2015

How Reliable is your Memory?

Elizabeth Loftus gave this TED talk at TEDGlobal 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her purpose is to inform her audience about how memories can be inaccurate. Her name caught my eye immediately because I had heard it in AP Psychology last year, and I knew that she studied false memories. With Loftus being a well-known psychologist, the audience can expect a quality presentation with accurate information. Any audience member with experience with psychology or law enforcement should know what false memories are and how they impact court cases, etc. Loftus had excellent eye contact around the room and used many gestures, but not in a way that was over the top. 

An example of Loftus gesturing to the audience.

I like the way that she organized her speech. Her transitions were smooth, with an obvious introduction, body, and conclusion. She begins with a story of a man who was wrongfully convicted based on false memories. He was misidentified as the perpetrator of the crime. Then, she defines what false memories are, for the audience members who do not already know. They are situations when people remember things that did not happen or things that are different than the way that they really were. Loftus then continues talking about the impact false memories have in court cases. She used the following graphic to illustrate her point. 

Her graphic used as evidence

She goes on to say that three-quarters of the 300 people wrongfully convicted were convicted on the basis of false memories. Then, she establishes her credibility, having studied false memories for decades.  She continues to talk about her own experiments involving constructive memory.  Loftus contradicts the previous belief that memory is like a recorder, but instead is like a Wikipedia page, able to be "edited" by the person and others. 

Loftus displaying a photo used in her experiments.

For example, the above photo displayed depicts a car crash, and participants were told to guess the speed at which the car was traveling. However, responses varied based on the wording of the question. How fast was the car traveling when the car hit the other car? How fast was the car traveling when the car smashed the other car? To participants, the word 'smashed' implied a higher speed than 'hit'. To participants, the word 'smashed' implied a higher speed than 'hit'. Later, she discusses how the effect is magnified when the person is under stress.

Under stress, people can make misidentifications like this one, due to false memories.

Other experiments have placed false memories into the minds of participants, such as getting lost in a shopping mall, attacked by a wild animal, or nearly drowning as a child. She discusses the ethical concerns associated with this information. Should we use this mind technology? Or should we ever ban its use? 

Loftus concludes with further discussion of the case that she brought up at the beginning. Then, she brings up her most important, take home message. Overall, I liked the speech and thought it was organized in a way that made sense. However, she seemed to be slightly out of breath at some points during her speech. Another thing she could improve is her body language. She did not walk around, but shifted her weight so much that it was distracting, especially when the camera was focused on only her face and upper body. This caused whoever was filming to frequently cut to a different camera angle. 

She was originally in the center of the frame, but quickly shifted towards the right side.
The final thought of the TED talk.
Link to full video

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, the formatting is not great on this one. I tried, but Blogger has apparently decided to do whatever it wants today.