The perils of false memories in political investigations

June 2017

Politicians and officials under investigations like the one probing the Trump campaign's Russia ties often say they cannot recall certain events. Investigators and prosecutors don't look kindly on such statements.

But high-profile public figures do sometimes develop incorrect memories, such as Brian Williams' on-air exaggerations, and Hillary Clinton's story of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia.

"Educated, successful people in society can have pretty huge false memories," Elizabeth Loftus, distinguished professor of psychology and social behavior, told Politico.

Read the story.


Journaling methods help improve mental and physical health

June 2017

A journaling method called "expressive writing" -- recording your deepest thoughts and feelings for 15 to 30 minutes a day, usually for period of days or weeks -- has numerous physical and psychological benefits, according to a meta-analysis of 146 studies on expressive writing conducted by Joanne Zinger, associate professor of teaching. The practice can improve mental health and even cause wounds to heal faster.

Jennifer Sango wins Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

June 2017

Jennifer Sango, a Social Ecology undergraduate, has won the 2017 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. The award, given by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, recognizes the research accomplishments of one student per school. Her Honor's advisor and research mentor is Susan Charles, professor of psychology and social behavior.

James Comey and memory rehearsal: storing some details while others fade

June 2017

Former FBI Director James Comey started recording detailed memos of his interactions with President Donald Trump immediately after their first one-on-one meeting -- a fact that came up during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee June 8.

An FBI agent's contemporaneous notes are widely considered reliable evidence of conversations, but there is a downside to such a memory archiving method, says Elizabeth Loftus, distinguished professor of psychology and social behavior. Replaying events to write them down is a form of "rehearsal," or a way to better retain memories. While that rehearsing can help strengthen recollection of some details, it actually allows other non-rehearsed details to fade faster, a process known as retrieval-induced forgetting.

Inconsistent witness testimony an all too common problem

June 2017

Different witnesses of a shooting at a bar in Appleton, Wisconsin remember the event differently -- a common problem, according to Elizabeth Loftus, a distinguished professor of social ecology.

"Anytime you have a group situation where something happens and you question witnesses about it, you end of up with lots of variation," Loftus told the USA Today Network in Wisconsin.

Ariana Grande benefit concert after Manchester attack signals resilience

June 2017

Just two weeks after the Manchester, England terrorist attack that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, the performer held an all-star benefit concert for the victims.

The show signaled resilience, and a way to wrest control of the narrative away from the terrorists, according to Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychology and social behavior.