How Much Fiction

"Our memories are constructive. They're reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people…

Maybe my work has made me different from most people. Most people cherish their memories, know that they represent their identity, who they are, where they came from. And I appreciate that. I feel that way, too. But I know from my work how much fiction is already in there. If I've learned anything from these decades of working on these problems, it's this: just because somebody tells you something and they say it with confidence, just because they say it with lots of detail, just because they express emotion when they say it, it doesn't mean that it really happened. 

We can't reliably distinguish true memories from false memories. We need independent corroboration. Such a discovery has made me more tolerant of the everyday memory mistakes that my friends and family members make...

Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind, we'd do well to, that memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing."

~ Elizabeth Loftus, from "The Fiction of Memory," TED Talks, June 2013


See also: 

  • West of Memphis [library]
  • Nathan, D. (2011, October 14). A girl not named Sybil. The New York Times. [online
  • Nathan, D. (2011). Sybil exposed: The extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case. New York: Free Press. [library]