The Psychology of Trauma

The Psychological Impact of Trauma

Can false memories be suggested to people?

Elizabeth Loftus (1944–) is a researcher who has long studied the vagaries of memory. She became well known for challenging the idea of recovered memories. Her work showed that memory is extremely malleable, that people are highly suggestible, and that false memories can be implanted by suggestion. In other words, it doesn’t take that much to convince people that they remember things that never actually happened. Loftus’s work highlights the risk of eliciting recovered memories of childhood trauma in psychotherapy. Clinicians must tread very carefully with patients whom they suspect may have histories of abuse. Clinicians must take pains to avoid leading questions and always keep in mind that the absence of memory may simply mean the absence of abuse.


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