Nilofar A. Becker

Psychology & Social Behavior

Nilofar Becker followed a keen interest in the malleability of memory into her research in Professor Loftus’ lab. She was particularly fascinated in the real-world implications of her work, discovering that therapists can unknowingly implant false memories in their patients’ minds by using suggestive techniques. Nilofar considers the opportunity to participate in research to be a highlight of her undergraduate education and recommends it highly as a chance for students to deepen their education. After graduation, Nilofar will be pursuing graduate studies at the UC Irvine School of Law.triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Research has shown that some types of motivation can increase the likelihood of false memory development. In therapy settings, patients might be presented with a theory that some negative event happened to them, and they might then be motivated to believe this event occurred because it would explain why they are experiencing current symptoms and shortcomings. This study sought to explore the role of motivation in the development of false autobiographical memories. Three conditions were used in this study: in the Suggestion-Plus-Motivation condition, participants were told (falsely) that they were bullied in middle childhood, and given a motivating consequence for believing this (individuals bullied at this age later develop poor flirting ability, which can explain why they are experiencing romantic shortcomings now). In the Suggestion-Only condition, participants were told they were bullied, but without the motivation information. Those in the Control condition were told nothing about bullying or flirting. Results showed that more people in the Suggestion-Plus-Motivation condition developed false memories/beliefs of being bullied compared to the other conditions. This suggests that this type of motivation does influence memory suggestibility. Understanding more about this relationship can help therapists reduce the chances of patients forming false memories.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Elizabeth F. Loftus

School of Social Ecology

UROP is a fantastic opportunity for students who are interested in getting firsthand experience with the research process. Like others who have pursued this opportunity, Nilofar’s experience was a successful one. Her results demonstrate that a motivation to explain one's current deficiencies can increase the likelihood that a person develops a false childhood memory. Such memories may be psychologically appealing in that they offer an external event that people can attribute as being the cause of their present shortcomings. While this influence on memory may occur organically in everyday life, these findings offer a caution to clinicians who may at times convey to their clients the idea that current symptoms likely stem from a non-remembered childhood event. This study suggests that conveying such a message would increase the risk of false memories.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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