(c) Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd., November 14, 1994, Pg. A16 Memory can be implanted: Stu

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(c) Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd., November 14, 1994, Pg. A16 Memory can be implanted: Study 25% of adults will believe suggested incidents By Tracey Tyler The results, presented at a recent conference of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, could have implications for sexual abuse cases involving witnesses who say they have recently "recovered" memories of abuse that occurred in the past. Some clinical psychologists feel the mind can bury the trauma of sexual abuse so deeply that it can only be recovered later by flashbacks, therapy or other stimuli. But other researchers say there is no scientific support for the idea that memories can be buried into the unconscious and recovered years later, applying the term "false memory syndrome" to the notion. Elizabeth Loftus, a University of Washington psychologist and leading memory researcher, told the Toronto conference that her Seattle laboratory recently conducted an experiment to see if a completely fabricated "memory" could be implanted. Using adults 18 to 53, Loftus and her researchers enlisted the help of older relatives of the sample group. With this assistance, the subjects were reminded of a series of incidents that actually happened in their childhood, plus one fictitious "memory" -- of getting lost in a shopping mall. Lawyers at the conference were shown a video in which a teenager was convinced that he not only was lost, but was frightened and crying as well. He went on to "recall" the incident in great detail, including "remembering" that the man who eventually rescued him wore glasses and a red flannel shirt and that his mother warned him never to get lost again. Expressed Surprise He expressed surprise after learning that it didn't really occur. Loftus said although that, about three-quarters of the 24 adult subjects rejected the false memory, it was believed by nearly one-quarter involved in the study. A similar study by researchers at Western Washington University found that between one-fifth and one-quarter of adult subjects believed they once had an ear infection so painful that they required an overnight stay in hospital, Loftus said. The same university found a similar number of adult study subjects claimed to have "remembered" falling into a punch bowl at a wedding when they were children and spilling punch all over the parents of the bride, she said. Loftus said the results dispel a notion held by some that only children are suggestible.


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