Memory and Guilty Verdicts

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

400px-Elizabeth_Loftus-TAM_9-July_2011I’d only planned to write one guest blog this weekend, but this morning on Huffington Post I saw a video from a TED lecture.  The lecture was from Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus  who has been studying false memories since the 1970’s. She links what she discovered with one of the failings of our Criminal Justice System, with the false memories reported in court. This is an 18 minute lecture but it is well worth your time and bears directly on the topics we discuss here on the Law Blog. I must note that in it she is critical of certain psychotherapy techniques and I am a psychotherapist. Despite my training and profession I believe her critiques are on point and illustrate one of the problems inherent in some psychotherapies. For any readers that are interested in our legal system and who care about its problems, viewing this will represent time well spent.  My technical skills are such that I don’t know how to properly make the video appear in WordPress but if you click on the following link you will be able to see it:     Mystery of Memory 

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

75 thoughts on “Memory and Guilty Verdicts

  1. I have met Dr. Loftus and have admired her work for years. She is an expert on eyewitness testimony as well. The courts rely on eyewitness accounts to an uncommon degree, which is a very dangerous practice. That the eyes can deceive was illustrated here yesterday by the illusion Nal presented.

    I have a couple of courtroom anecdotes that illustrate the problem with eyewitness testimony. There was one case in which the defendant was an Amish man. He wore the traditional black attire and beard. Many of the man’s neighbors attended the trial, so his attorney got permission from the judge for him to sit in the gallery with his friends and family rather than the defense table. When the prosecution witnesses appeared in the courtroom, they were asked to identify the defendant sitting among all the other Amish men. Not one of them got it right.

    In another case, a lawyer asked a young man of his acquaintance if he would come sit at defense table with him while the real defendant sat over by the courtroom wall. For a couple of portraits of Ben Franklin, the attorney’s employee obliged. He looked nothing like the defendant, but the police officer witness pointed him out as the man he had arrested–a man he had never seen before in his life. A guilty verdict came back and the bailiffs took the guy into custody. It practically took an act of Congress to get him out of prison and the judge was not at all happy with defense counsel. I have an idea a few more portraits of Ben Franklin had to change hands after that.

    I have a whole lecture about “recovered memories” and on exactly how suggestible people are when interrogated. As a long-time student of Milton Erickson and his techniques of indirect suggestion, most people are surprised when it is demonstrated to them personally how easy it is to implant false memories.

  2. Having studied hypnosis, and am now a certified trainer of same, I must agree. Memory is memory and feels the same even when implanted. Eyewitness testimony is the very worst evidence in my opinion.

    How many prosecutors coach their witnesses. How many innocents were convicted on eyewitness testimony. All to many, right?

  3. Mike S,

    There is much support for what she said, as you know.

    These techniques of implanting a false memory she spoke of is not the end of the matter.

    One of the largest industries in the U.S. is the memory changing business:

    The team’s study challenges the theory that memories cannot be modified once they are stored in the brain.

    A group of US marketing researchers claim that brand owners can make their customers believe they had a better experience of a product or service than they really did by bombarding them with positive messages after the event. Advocates of the technique, known as “memory morphing”, claim it can be used to improve customers’ perceptions of products and encourage them to repeat their purchases and recommend brands to friends.

    “When asked, many consumers insist that they rely primarily on their own first-hand experience with products – not advertising – in making purchasing decisions. Yet, clearly, advertising can strongly alter what consumers remember about their past, and thus influence their behaviours,” he writes in his book, How Customers Think. He says that memories are malleable, changing every time they come to mind, and that brands can use this to their advantage. “What consumers recall about prior product or shopping experiences will differ from their actual experiences if marketers refer to those past experiences in positive ways,” he continues.

    And one of the striking features of the modern period is the institutionalization of that process, so that we now have huge industries deceiving the public — and they’re very conscious about it, the public relations industry. Interestingly, this developed in the freest countries — in Britain and the US—roughly around time of WWI, when it was recognized that enough freedom had been won that people could no longer be controlled by force. So modes of deception and manipulation had to be developed in order to keep them under control.

    And by now these are huge industries. They not only dominate marketing of commodities, but they also control the political system. As anyone who watches a US election knows, it’s marketing. It’s the same techniques that are used to market toothpaste.

    (A Structure RE: Corruption of Memes – 3). You can call it propaganda or false memory implants, but either way it is damaging to the public when government does it routinely.

  4. With this we can see the value of Magna Carta Article 38:

    [As this is translated from the Latin original, the renderings vary:]

    “38. No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint, put anyone to his “law”, without credible witnesses brought for this purpose.”

    “38. No bailiff, on his own simple assertion, shall henceforth put any one to his law, without producing faithful witnesses in evidence.”

    “(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.” — British Library

    “38. In future no official shall put anyone to trial merely on his own testimony, without reliable witnesses produced for this purpose.”

    Clause 38 stated that no-one could be put on trial based solely on the unsupported word of an official.

    “Clause 38 is almost as important. It said: ‘No official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.’ Most of the worst injustices in recent legal history have occurred when people have been convicted on no real evidence other than confessions made under interrogation.” — The Independent (UK), Sunday, Dec. 19, 2007

    The practice of revenue agents (police) roaming the highways on the lookout for revenue taxable events (speeding, etc) would be destroyed if defendants invoked this principle. And if judges regarded it. Law enforcement would be reduced to pursuing suspected offenders upon the complaint of injured parties or witnesses. Highway patrols would be made into “Good Samaritans” on the lookout for distressed travelers.

    Then we have the “Police Officers Perjury Immunity” case, Briscoe v LaHue, 460 U.S. 325 (1983),

    which ruled that police officer witnesses have the same immunity from civil suit for damages as any other witness. No biggie there.

    However, the Court went on to say that criminal prosecution of police officers for perjury was so little of a threat to dishonest officers as to be virtually nonexistent.
    That is, a police officer’s oath is of no legal value. It will not be enforced on officers giving false testimony or presenting false evidence against a defendant.
    The worst thing that will happen to a perjuring officer is that, if false testimony is extremely egregious, (s)he is fired. If that takes place the officer may have to move somewhere far away. Even the grossest misbehavior does not commonly result in the officer having to earn a living outside law enforcement unless convicted of a violent felony. And such felony will not be perjury.

    From Briscoe:

    “Former criminal defendants may well wish to avoid further entanglements with the legal system and are unlikely to have the resources needed to pursue such suits. Lawyers will probably have little incentive to become involved in actions against the police, and those that do face an uphill struggle.” Footnote 44

    [A major reason for allowing suits against officers for alleged perjury is that the damages are not seized from the officer but are paid by his/her agency or by a risk management pool. It does not come from their assets nor is garnished from their pay. They are paid, overtime if appropriate, for attending court.]

    “Police officers and other government officials differ significantly from private citizens, around whom common-law doctrines of witness immunity developed. A police officer comes to the witness stand clothed with the authority of the State. His official status gives him credibility and creates a far greater potential for harm than exists when the average citizen testifies. The situation is aggravated when the official draws on special expertise. A policeman testifying about a fingerprint identification or a medical examiner testifying as to the cause of a death can have a critical impact on a defendant’s trial. At the same time, THE THREAT OF A CRIMINAL PERJURY PROSECUTION, which serves as an important constraint on the average witness’ testimony, IS VIRTUALLY NONEXISTENT IN THE POLICE-WITNESS CONTEXT [my emphasis in bold]. Despite the apparent prevalence of police perjury, prosecutors exhibit extreme reluctance in charging police officials with criminal conduct because of their need to maintain close working relationships with law enforcement agencies. The majority thus forecloses a civil sanction in precisely those situations where the need is most pressing.”

    “… the danger that official witnesses would be inhibited in testifying by the fear of a damages action is much more remote than would be the case with private witnesses. Policemen normally have a duty to testify about matters involving their official conduct. The notion that officials with a professional interest in securing criminal convictions would shade their testimony in favor of a defendant to avoid the risk of a civil suit can only be viewed with skepticism. In addition, police officials are usually insulated from any economic hardship associated with lawsuits based on conduct within the scope of their authority.”
    “Police officers are generally provided free counsel and are indemnified for conduct within the scope of their authority.” Fn. 38

    “Sheriffs, having eyes to see, see not; judges, having ears to hear, hear not; witnesses conceal the truth or falsify it; grand and petit juries act as if they might be accomplices” Fn. 31

    “[T]he courts are in many instances under the control of those who are wholly inimical to the impartial administration of law and equity” Fn. 31

    “judges exercise their ‘almost despotic powers . . . against Republicans without regard to law or justice’ ” Fn. 31

    “The outrages committed upon loyal men there are under the forms of law. It can be summed up in one word: loyal men cannot obtain justice in the courts . . .” Fn. 31

    Further, on oaths:

    In modern legal use oaths are not made by anything, not even “In the name of God.” They do not even so much as pretend to have any substance – danger of God or some god striking the perjurer dead, sick, whatever. At best they are relics of some or another religion or religions, which in that have no place in a secular society. To think that police and other government officers and paid witnesses fear God or some god if they lie under oath, and to rely on that for protection from lies is optimistic (or something else: credulous) to a fault.
    All that is needed, in place of oaths, handsigns or other superstitious nonsense, is an instruction by the court (judge) to each witness that if (s)he lies on the witness stand (s)he can be punished according to law.

  5. I had an an experience about four years ago. I was dying from congestive heart failure and came to see that my daughters knew almost nothing of my life before I became their father. Since I married their mother at 37 there was much in my life, good and bad, that I had never discussed with them Since my father died when I was 18 I have missed him for more than 50 years and there is so many discussion I would have loved to have had with him as an adult and much regret that it couldn’t be. Anyway I wrote more than 850 pages detailing my experiences and did them as honestly as I could, to show them both may faults and my good deeds. In the writing of it I discovered these mistakes in my remembrance. I was able to discern it because certain songs and certain movies played a part in my tale. For instance the happiest day I had spent in my life with my parents occurred the day There was a private dealer advance showing introducing the new 59 Oldsmobile. After the festivities at the then NY Colosseum, we then saw Hitchcock’s “North by Northwestt” at the Radio City Music Hall and ended the day with dinner at the legendary Carnegie Deli. I would have sworn in court that that occurred in 1957. Research showed me the movie was released in the summer of 1959. This was just one incident of my memory deceiving me, luckily no ones life was on the line.

  6. People w/ incredible memories have Hyperthymesia. Marilu Henner is one of these people. She can remember every day of her life. Give her a date and she’ll give you details of it.

    Getting people to remember facts is what I did for a living. It’s a craft that takes patience and persistence.

  7. “Getting people to remember facts….”

    That is exactly the problem Dr. Loftus describes. What a person “remembers” may not be what actually happened. The memory is “real” and the subject believes it to be real. There is a phenomenon called confabulation in which the brain inserts logical visual and auditory information into areas where there are no memories. That happens far more than people think. For example, I had a client who was involved in a car crash. She was hit from the side. She absolutely remembers pulling her car off the road onto a grassy shoulder and stopping. But something curious about her story. She says she saw the other car coming and felt the crash. Then she remembers pulling off the road and stopping. She then said that her mother was standing at her driver’s side door trying to get the door open and talking to her. There was also a police car there and a crowd had gathered. When asked how that could have happened in the space of three seconds between her stopping the car and the crowd gathering, she still insisted she remembered pulling off and stopping the car. Her mother was the passenger and said my client was knocked out cold by the impact and was slumped over the wheel. The car coasted to a stop on the grass beside the road. Yet, her memory was vivid and could not be dislodged.

    Police investigators and mental health professionals who try to get people to retrieve memories are playing the game of GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. I have worked with the late Martin Orne, PhD, MD, one of the leading researchers in memory and hypnosis. Martin’s very first published paper was on the subject of comparing a hypnotically recalled memory with what actually happened. He had subjects draw, under hypnosis, things they had drawn as children. The instruction was to age regress to childhood and draw something they drew as a child, exactly as they did as a child. He chose subject matter where he had obtained childhood drawings from those people for comparison purposes. The result? The drawings that were supposed to be exact replicas bore no resemblance to the original childhood drawings.

    Martin and I worked on one case where the issue was a therapist who was “helping” a woman recall alleged abuse. What we found was the therapist, by repeated questioning with leading questions, was planting false memories that were “real” to the purported victim.

    Both Dr. Orne and I thought any attempt to enhance or bring back memories was tampering with evidence, literally. That includes both hypnosis and repeated questioning.

  8. When a person is able to remember something then an investigator goes about finding corroboration to support or not support their memory. If you find corroboration it’s probably true, no corroboration, maybe not. It’s putting together a jigsaw puzzle. No one gives you the entire picture. A memory from a witness may take you down a path no one else had thought. There are dead ends, cross traffic, turns, all finding the pieces. If you’re strictly a linear thinker, you’re horseshit. It’s always about corroboration. If your case is the memory of a witness w/o corroboration, you have a horseshit case.

    I worked a few false memory civil cases involving sexual abuse. Shrinks do much more harm than good. I always considered it hocus pocus horseshit. I saw a father put through hell because a feminist shrink made his adult daughter think he had abused her. I don’t know who was more screwed up, the plaintiff or her hairy legged/armpit shrink. The jury HATED her and rightfully dismissed her testimony. The jury, mostly women, came back in 45 minutes for the defendant.

    It is no revelation to anyone who does investigations that memories can be wrong, partial, obscured, etc.

  9. I am going to bend the rules here a bit, because a great comment by contributor thesaintdoktoroscar got stuck in the trash. There were three links in the comment, so I am reproducing the comment, breaking it down into two comments so the links will publish. H/T to the commenter.

    Submitted on 2013/10/27 at 3:22 pm by thesaintdoktoroscar

    Here’s a very interesting bit from the psychotherapy angle…

    Loftus co-authored a paper with Melvin J. Guyer entitled “Who Abused Jane Doe? The Hazards of the Single Case History”. The paper was a withering critique of a case history of recovered memories of sexual abuse published by psychiatrist David Corwin and his collaborator Erna Olafson in 1997. It was such a hot potato no peer-reviewed journal would publish it. Eventually it was published in Skeptical Inquirer in 2002:

  10. “getting people to remember facts”

    The whole point of the lecture and the corroborating evidence that OS supplied, is that often the “facts” remembered in criminal cases are specious and that people get wrongly convicted due to mis-remembered witness testimony.

  11. Wasn’t Dr. Loftus hired by the Catholic Church in Boston in their case to defend the church against charges that the Rev. Paul R. Shanley molested plaintiffs Gregory Ford and Paul Busa? (repressed memory at issue)

  12. Thanks Mike…. I think I understand what Nick is saying about Marilou…. Aka Elaine Nardo…. But in general eye witness testimony is very unreliable….. Thanks for an excellent article..

  13. AY, Just providing the polar opposite. If the person has no monetary interest, or has not been in contact w/ someone w/ a criminal or monetary interest, their memory can be good, or in the case of the voluptuous Elaine Nardo, incredible. I’m talking ALL types of cases. I would interview nurses on med mal cases involving a juvenile about a baby delivery that happened 5 years ago or more. They have left the hospital, maybe even left the state. They have no dog in the fight/ Firstly, you have to motivate them to try and remember. Then you use your craft trying to pick their brain. You’re simply trying to get their recollection and then comparing and contrasting it w/ other evidence. You’re assessing them as a person and how they will come across to a jury.

  14. Gathering intelligence is one thing. Hanging the outcome of a case on somebody’s memory or eyewitness account is a recipe for disaster. And as for persons with alleged eidetic memory, as Martin Orne proved conclusively, their “perfect” memories are as much subject to confabulation and errors of recall as anyone else. Anyone and everyone is vulnerable to having false memories implanted.

    Gather the intelligence and look for corroborating forensic evidence. Additionally, I don’t believe some of the confessions I have heard. Some people lie when they are confessing. Sometimes they believe they did it (false memories again), but sometimes for other reasons, including mental illness. The increasing number of people who confessed but have been exonerated by DNA and other physical evidence is proof of the phenomenon happening.

  15. You’re talking criminal, I’m talking criminal and civil. That was made explicitly clear. The topic is memory as it pertains to testimony. I know you consider yourself above investigators, but I don’t. And I certainly know you consider yourself above me, but again, I don’t. Remember that great speech about the Scottish blood and bowing before no man the other night? Well, my maternal grandfather was Scottish and working the coal mines when he was 12. So, there’s that. I’ve worked the big city circuit, KC and Chicago, and AAA circuit in Madison. You’ve been A and AA ball. Maybe you’re a good shrink, I don’t know. Unlike some here, I won’t judge your abilities. But as I’ve said, I’ve worked w/ too many shrinks to be deferential. In civil cases, shrinks are pretty much whores, and they know it. But, the pay is pretty good.

    So, if you want to have a regular discussion w/ someone who was the lead investigator on cases worth up to $75million, [Central Storage Warehouse Fire Dane County Circuit Court] I’ll be happy to engage. But, if you want to play that “I’m the expert here,” then just save your time. I don’t dance. I’ve been around, ya’ know.

  16. Oh please. The size of a case is totally irrelevant to the facts of memory issues. So what. Face it. You are not an expert on memory, confabulation, or neuropsychological impairment. Your comments so far have established that. As for criminal cases, that is irrelevant too. In point of fact, those issues go equally to criminal and civil cases. There is no difference when it comes to the issues Elizabeth Loftus describes. Period.

    And as for specific cases. Memory problems affect everything from property disputes to train wrecks. Bragging on big cases you worked on is like bragging on the size of your junk. Absolutely no one cares and it is irrelevant to anything having to do with memory.

    If you want to read peer reviewed papers, Dr. Loftus has written a few.

  17. “I’ll take that as a no.”

    So let me get this straight you doubt OS’s credentials as a Psychologist and want to see proof. What proof do we have that you were a Prison Guard, An English Teacher and a private eye? What credentials can you show other than your rather doubtful word?

  18. Mike,
    That is the oldest stunt in the world that lawyers pull in front of a jury. I am sure Nick makes similar demands to see his physician’s peer reviewed studies on impotence before he lets the doctor write his Viagra prescription.

    Seriously, that type of thing makes me wonder if some people really don’t understand the difference between a university based researcher on a salary versus a practitioner. The question has two elements. One is that it is a thinly veiled attempt at a “gotcha.” In other words a blatantly transparent cheap shot. Second, it suggests the person asking really is that dim, that they don’t know the difference between a full time researcher and a practitioner.

  19. I’m merely asking if OS has done any peer reviewed studies, I would be interested in reading them. I would think he would be pleased to share them. Why so touchy? And my question was to OS. Too many budinski’s here. You just passed the 3rd anniversary of your heart transplant. Stay calm and keep those anniversaries going for decades.

    I don’t consider myself an expert on memory. I’m just interested in what fields OS is an expert and I would like to read his papers. And real classy swipe w/ the Viagra remark, OS. When I mentioned that a while back I wanted to see who would take the first swipe. You were my 3rd pick. I’d be careful in that category if I were you, glass houses and all.

  20. OS, I know your profession quite well. As I’ve said, I’ve helped defend more than a few of your colleagues for preying on vulnerable patients. Quite well, sir. Lot’s of sexual predators w/ that PhD behind their names. I know psych professors @ UW and UM and many shrinks. A few are very good.

  21. Check those oxygen levels, I’ve said @ least 20 times I was a history teacher. Those records are available online. I’m still a licensed PI, again public record online. You’ll have to check w/ the BOP. I worked @ Leavenworth in 1975-76. Lame and childish.

  22. One of your techniques is to try and control who does and who does not comment in threads. That won’t fly. Mike or anybody else can, and will, comment whenever they please on any subject they please.

    This is a discussion of memory and the problems of false or misleading memories. If you don’t have anything probative to add to the discussion that sheds light on the problems of memory, I guess we are done.

  23. Mike,

    I saw this video late last week. Another in a long line of excellent TED talks. I check out TED a couple of times a week just to see what’s new. And thanks again to our very own Mark Esposito (mespo) for turning me on to TED all those years ago. It was a gift that keeps on giving.

  24. A bit sensitive about your past Nick, I wonder why? In any event bluster and mis-direction won’t change the fact that you questioned OS credentials and tried to defame him. I guess your promise to behave to Jonathan was as false as you other lies.

  25. This is a great topic, Mike. I recall a case out of California some years ago involving allegations of sexual abuse at a child care center. I don’t remember all of the details, but the allegations were ultimately shown to be false and virtually destroyed the lives of the people who owned the center. I do recall thinking when the truth emerged that it was though false memories had been created in the “victims” and combined to create a form of mass hysteria. You may recall the case. The ordeal was pretty frightening.

  26. One of the more interesting subjects to view when it comes to implanted, false, or confabulated memories is alien abduction.

    It turns out that it’s very easy to craft false memories in a subject even when it comes to such extremes as being captured and experimented upon by extraterrestrial beings — how could it be difficult to do so when it comes to simple, everyday things like identifying a suspected criminal…?

    Mike Appleton — I believe you are referring to the McMartin preschool incident, and it is an excellent example. The wiki article is fairly good on this one, though I’m not sure about posting links here, they seem to cause trouble.

  27. Once again quite childish. Nothing I said would lead any rational person to believe I was, or am, the least bit touchy about my career. I quite simply told you how to verify what I have said, and pointed out how you have been wrong calling me an “English teacher,” over and over again. You seem to get stuck in OCD like loops, like always calling me a liar. I despise your doing that. But, every time you do it diminishes you and bolsters me in the eyes of people you SO DESPERATELY need to be loved and respected by. Like a few other folks, this is your world. I have invaded your world. And you are imploding trying to get me out of it. Shakespearean.

    Instead of obsessing on me, you should have @ least taken a minute and welcome Mespo back like your fellow GBers.

  28. Nick,
    This discussion is not, and never has been about you. It is not about me either. The subject matter is memory and the misconceptions lawyers and judges have about memory, as well as the misconceptions of the lay public.

    As for your calling me out publicly regarding welcoming Mark (mespo). back, that is socially inappropriate. You have no idea of what private communication any of the GBs have had with him or each other, and frankly it is none of anybody’s business. If we wanted to make our emails public, we would do so.

    As I said before, you are more than welcome to have a discussion, either anecdotal or from research on memory, confessions and investigative techniques. That is the topic of this well-documented and well written post by Mike Spindell. There is a vast difference between ankle-biting, sniping with one-liners and genuine discussion. The latter requires thought and effort. There is very little I agree with David on, but his discussions are thoughtful, he never writes a simple throwaway line, and clearly puts effort into his near-essays. Additionally, he is capable of a sharply worded retort, but has NEVER been mean-spirited or snide about it. You might try DavidM’s approach to commenting. Your remarks remind me more of the comment threads on YouTube than what one expects to find on a prestigious law blog.

    And oh yes, expect to find humor, irony, dry obscure jokes and some sarcasm here. As others have pointed out, you read far more into stuff than is really there and take things personally. That indicates both a lack of sense of humor as well as thin skin. I have pretty much ignored your crude digs up to this point. I suggest you dial back the crude sexism as well. When you have been called on some of that in the past you have responded that you are just, “busting balls.” Frankly that kind of sexist crude remark is offensive, not to mention disingenuous. Most of the men who post here, with the exception of a few obvious trolls, are well educated, as well as the women. I certainly think someone who has mentioned being a schoolteacher would be able to write a complete English sentence without resorting to crude misogynistic street slang.

  29. Ah Nick,

    Still seeking attention I see. Weren’t you supposed to be in Europe by now. If you are and still commenting then it seems you are the one obsessing.

  30. Sexism..that’s a first! My feminist wife would be SHOCKED! So would my daughter and sister. We’ve been married for 37 years and Leslyn never knew she was married to a sexist. I’ll be sure to tell her when she returns from a book signing.

  31. Mike Appleton, et al.:

    “This is a great topic, Mike. I recall a case out of California some years ago involving allegations of sexual abuse at a child care center.”

    I remember that also, I think that was in the Bakersfield or Fresno area. Here’s a link to a documentary (I haven’t watched it yet) that I belive is about this incident.

    Here’s the synopsis:

    “WITCH HUNT is a documentary about punishment without crime. It’s John Stoll’s story, and the story of hundreds of other men and women who found themselves ensnared in a spiral of fear, ignorance and hysteria — an eerie echo of the tragic events that unfolded in Salem, Massachusetts more than 300 years ago.

    WITCH HUNT tell John’s story, but the focus goes far beyond one man. The film also travels through the lives of other men, women and children whose worlds were suddenly shattered by events that can only be described as surreal. The film examines the unraveling of one town’s justice system. In Bakersfield, California in the mid 1980s, it didn’t take much to be charged, arrested and convicted for the heinous crime of child molestation. All of those involved have a tale to tell, but John has a distinction that makes his story particularly compelling. He spent more years behind bars than any of the others…twenty long years.”

  32. I was taught the following in college:

    Our brains are designed to “construct” all manner of memories in order for us to make sense of our everyday world. If our brains captured memories as photographs or movies do, as unchanging exact images, we might have trouble with simple tasks like reading because every possible font-type we might encounter of the capital letter “A” would have to be “photographed” by our brains to be learned as another version of the letter “A.” Because we have constructive memory ability, we are able to instantly understand many different fonts of the capital letter “A” even in fonts we have not encountered before. Thus, we are able to recognize that that large plant is a “tree” even if we have never seen that type of tree before. This is an incredibly useful ability, but very detrimental when it comes to eye witness memory.

  33. “The comment about not welcoming Mespo back was directed @ the golf course shrink.”

    Instigating again Nick. What happened to your apologizing to JT and promising to stop doing your agitating. Lying again?

  34. “We’ve been married for 37 years and Leslyn never knew she was married to a sexist. I’ll be sure to tell her when she returns from a book signing.”

    Aside from your wife, who you brought into this, being a Saint for tolerating you I don’t think she has been reading your sexists posts directed at Elaine, SwM, Juliet and others. You unerringly patronize women on this site and the sad part about it is that is that they are all smarter than you. Then again, after 37 years of marriage to someone much smarter than you, you probably take out your verbal aggression on women here, because when you’ve tried arguing with her she puts you in your place. BTW whatever happened to Europe? You were supposed to be there by now.

  35. Just finish the back nine Mr. Paternalistic. Get over to the toxic thread, they need more venom. And, the donor family called, they want their heart back.

  36. What makes people more suggestible?

    Are highly imaginative people more suggestible?

    Otteray Scribe, you talked about “highly suggestible people” and then later say that “anyone and everyone is susceptible to having false memories implanted.” To what degree?

    I think there are some nuances that I’m missing. :)

  37. Nick,
    I generally enjoy the posts you have written. They offered a different perspective on the topics. And, I have found I have agreed with you on a variety things.

    However, “And, the donor family called, they want their heart back.” that is just mean and uncalled for.

    What’s going on? You didn’t used to comment like that! I may not have been posting for long, but I’ve been reading for awhile and something seems to have changed…

  38. Nick,

    For goodness sakes….. Must you piss on everyone at once? I’ve been reading these exchanges and they usually start with nick being dismissive of someone….. You might want to change stragetys….. Why go after LK, what did she do other than speak her truth…..

  39. Gee, I’d really like to take part in this discussion…but I’m getting drowsy now. Nick was right when he said “Old ladies need naps” on another thread.

  40. Prairie Rose,
    The data show that about one in five persons is highly suggestible. They make excellent hypnotic subjects. The other end of the spectrum is that about 20% of the general population is quite resistant to suggestion. What I have found among those people is psychological rigidity, tendency to be suspicious of the motives of others and an almost pathological need to be in control. They are often passive-aggressive.

    The 20% of the population that are suggestible are usually eager to please, don’t mind letting others suggest things to them, and are trusting. The middle 60% of the general population falls along the spectrum between those two extremes.

    Stage hypnotists select ‘volunteers’ from the audience by warming them up, as do many other entertainers. They may ask the audience to imagine they have the world’s biggest lemon on the table in front of them. They proceed to act out preparing the lemon for cutting, sharpening the imaginary knife and so forth. Then making a cutting motion, describe the juice squirting out into the audience. While doing this, the hypnotist watches the audience to see who reacts by dodging and squinching their eyes as if they actually feel the lemon juice. After several more imagination exercises, the magician will have been able to select the half dozen or so audience members who are most suggestible. Those are the ones invited to the stage. Of course, by that time the suggestible persons find it almost impossible to resist the instruction to come up on the stage.

    Even when I was in high school, I was fascinated by the power of suggestion. My grandfather had taught me a number of stage hypnotist tricks by the time I was fourteen. In my lectures when I was teaching postgraduate classes in psychology, I demonstrated some of the ways false memories can not only be planted, but removed from memory as well. There was this one student who had been a fighter pilot in Vietnam. He is now a practicing lawyer. He volunteered in class and I got him to forget the number seven. The expression on his face was priceless when I asked him a few simple arithmetic problems and then asked him to add five and two.

  41. “However, “And, the donor family called, they want their heart back.” that is just mean and uncalled for.”

    Prairie Rose,

    He really wrote that? I must have missed it in the flurry of E mails I’ve gotten today. Knowing I had a heart transplant just three years ago that was a despicable thing to say. You know I loathe Dick Cheney, who has also had a heart transplant, but having gone through the experience of almost dying only to be reborn, I could never wish that on Cheney or complain that he had one. You’ve been here only a short while but this has been how Nick has behaved since his first time on the blog. He has been warned on a number of occasions by Professor Turley. However, this is a “free speech” blog and knowing that Nick has tested the limits because of his hatred for about half of the guest bloggers. Their crime……..disagreeing with him. Anyway, you can make your own judgments.

  42. That was over the line and I sincerely apologize. I am a donor. I tried to be a bone marrow donor for my sister but did not match. But, I kept my name on the donor list and will be one for an anonymous person. This is a list that REALLY needs donors, particularly black and Hispanic people. I say this to show just how callous and hurtful it was. It was not done out of ignorance, but our of anger. My apologies again to MikeS and everyone on this blog. I have no excuse. My explanation was to show how wrong I knew it was.

  43. Elaine,
    “He’s made snide/nasty comments before this thread.”

    Yes, I have noticed that recently. I meant in the past few weeks or months versus a year ago. The vitriol seems to have ramped up rather swiftly. I do not recall it from much earlier. Perhaps my memory is poor (ah, the irony on this thread), or, I missed long previous cantankerous threads, which is also possible.

    Either way it makes me sad.

  44. Prairie Rose, I apologize specifically to you also. You’re correct, the vitriol has increased and I accept my responsibility. I doubt you will see anyone else do so. But being a wise person, you know it takes 2, or in this case about 10, to tangle. C’est la vie.

  45. Nick,
    I appreciate your apology. My biggest hope is that something broken here can mend. And, that we on this blog are ‘adversaries’ only in mind and opinion but not in heart.

    My mom said to me and my siblings over and over again, “Take the high road.” It may take two to tangle but only one to take the high road.

    Have a good evening. May tomorrow be a brighter day. :)

  46. “I doubt you will see anyone else do so. But being a wise person, you know it takes 2, or in this case about 10, to tangle. C’est la vie.”

    That is not a sincere apology Nick and you know it. It sets up the false equivalency that you were not the only person to create this vitriolic atmosphere. I’ve apologized twice to David in this past week and my apologies were unequivocal. This “apology” of yours carried within it an element that exculpated your behavior. That is the classic example of an insincere false apology.

  47. Mike,
    I noticed that too. As a lifetime student of nuanced language, that is a typical textbook passive-aggressive response. Starts out fine, but the passive-aggressive can’t seem to help doing that. I got a similar “apology” from a long time friend yesterday. A similar last line with a subtle dig was just enough to make me never trust that friend again. Too bad. Reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the fox.

    Certainly not as obvious as one of those, “If I offended anyone…” non-apology apologies, but bad enough.

  48. OS — that observation you describe is also very much about choosing audience members who are, not only suggestible, but willing to play along and able do it well.

    One never wants to get a poor performer on stage.

    As an (extremely) amateur conjurer myself, I am ethically restricted from commenting further.

  49. I watched/listened to the full video. Mike Spindell’s link worked fine. I have to say a few things here that will not be popular with the original blogger or many of his commenters; nevertheless they would do well to shut up & read/listen for a brief moment in the interests of truth, a very key concept in this blog. You should all certainly read & study what has already been done by that very busy author L Ron Hubbard. Put aside your biases & false memories on the man courtesy of the internet or media vested interest. Read what he has to say about memory, hypnosis, the three minds & the brain. You will get this from Dianetics & Scientology; two broad discoveries on the mind & spirit. If you have trouble with the science of the spirit, you can stick to Dianetics as in one of three main books on the subject & simply learn about the mind.
    Most of what Elizabeth Loftus has to say in the video has been covered & expanded on in these subjects by Hubbard. Of course, Ms Loftus’ take on relating to law enforcement is noted & approved. Before completing the science of the mind that is Dianetics in 1950, Hubbard had tried hypnotism as part of his research & concluded that it was NOT a good idea to continue with that. Once you get this subject under your belt, a relatively short & easy cycle for you studious lawyer types, you will see why. Once you grasp what the Reactive Mind is & how it works, this will also become clear. Now there IS a way to get to the truth of almost anything from an undrugged subject who is not completely psychotic. Ms Loftus thought there was not, but she has obviously not mastered Dianetic or Scientology auditing (guided questioning with an emphasis on listening, understanding & acknowledging, and always getting an answer to questions) as I & many others have.
    I will probably not follow on the ridiculous refusal of any one of you to read Dianetics with an open=&-willing-to-learn mind; lets give others a chance to do exactly that.

  50. “You should all certainly read & study what has already been done by that very busy author L Ron Hubbard. Put aside your biases & false memories on the man courtesy of the internet or media vested interest. Read what he has to say about memory, hypnosis, the three minds & the brain. You will get this from Dianetics & Scientology; two broad discoveries on the mind & spirit. If you have trouble with the science of the spirit, you can stick to Dianetics as in one of three main books on the subject & simply learn about the mind.”

    Travelling Limey,

    As I’ve told you before I have read many of Hubbard’s books and unlike you I actually heard Hubbard talk about Dianetics in the 50’s. Good Science Fiction writer of the space opera variety. Bad psychologist and worse philosopher. If his work has made a difference in your life more power to you. However, from my perspective when it came to Scientology the man was a con man with a great money making idea. At my age, with my education, training and life experience I don’t need Scientology, but if you do….go for it.

  51. Mike,
    You and I both know this. So does Gene because of his studies in philosophy, especially the Eastern philosophers. As for most of the other regulars, they have not talked a great deal about personal belief systems and philosophy of life. As Sheldon Kopp pointed out so eloquently years ago, when you take on a guru, you give up part of yourself. If the Traveling Limey needs a now-dead science fiction writer and grifter to tell him what to feel and think, he has given up a significant part of himself.

    When Dr. Richard Alpert had those insights into himself as a result of his research on the psychological effects of LSD-25, he started his Eastern studies and became Ram Dass. In one of his later books, he wrote that he was miserable and couldn’t figure out why. Then he came to realize it was because he was leaning on his guru to tell him what he was feeling and in turn, that was keeping him from exploring deeper issues within himself.

    That, in a nutshell, is what I think a lot of people do when they depend on religion and religious “leaders” to tell them what to think. We are members of the Episcopal church, but if you tried to get Fr. Schaefer to tell you what to think or feel about anything, you would be SOL. He is more like Fritz Perls or Alan Watts than any of the bible thumpers you normally encounter around here. And unlike Scientologists and televangelists, he doesn’t try to get his hand into your wallet. That’s why I like him so much.

    Speaking of Alan Watts. I got to see him only a week before he died. He was one of the most intense men I ever met. When he was with you, he was only with you. It is almost disconcerting to carry on a conversation with someone who is so totally focused on you alone. Then, when he turns to someone else, he transferred that focus to them. I was devastated when I read that only a week or ten days later, he had died. Alan was one of those people who leave you wanting more.

  52. You guys are sick. You confuse religious belief with science, fiction with fact, workable nonprofit enterprise with scam. You are too stuck in your false viewpoints to see any new ones. The bulk of my earlier comment is not addressed to you but to others reading these blogs who can think for themselves. Take another look in fifty years if you are smart enough to pick up another body & we still have a viable planet.

  53. “You confuse religious belief with science, fiction with fact, workable nonprofit enterprise with scam. You are too stuck in your false viewpoints to see any new ones. The bulk of my earlier comment is not addressed to you but to others reading these blogs who can think for themselves.”


    I’m not doubting that you believe Scientology helps you and and not denying your right to be a member of that cult. When you say that you are addressing your message to those who could think, I would reply that those who could think would probably reject any cult, but you have a right here to make any case for your beliefs that you want.

  54. “As Sheldon Kopp pointed out so eloquently years ago, when you take on a guru, you give up part of yourself.”


    Truer words are rarely spoken. The wisest men I’ve ever read or encountered never pretended to be gurus. You were privileged to meet Alan Watts, someone whose work I’ve admired for years.As you know what Fritz Perls trained was a method of how to look into yourself, observe your own behavior and from that adult perspective take charge (responsibility) for your own life.
    Cults and gurus ask you to surrender that personal responsibility to them. Gurdgieff, that irrepressible con man form the early 1900’s taught this kind of philosophy that the only true way to freedom was to cede it to him. Ouspensky followed him and built somewhat of an organization. I have no proof, other than reading and surmise, but I think Hubbard copied Gurdjieff’s book “Beezlebub’s Tales to His Grandchildren” as a template for the history of the Hubbard theory. Scientology certain adopted Ouspenksky’s methods of control.

    Cults paricularly incense me on a personal level. My first wife found herself in the clutches of an Ouspensky cult in Mexico when she went to visit her closest friend who had given up her life to the cult. It was a horrific experience. The first time I took LSD it was through my closest male friend whose girlfriend had gotten him involved in a group run by a Psychologist who believed in LSD Therapy. They pushed what started out as a beautiful trip into a near psychotic break for me with their confrontive behavior trying to break me down.

    I had the strength to fight it, but my friend was captured by their pseudo psychological mumbo jumbo. He gave up his job and his family to move to a large house owned by the guru/psychologist in Honolulu. They would take three acid trips per week under the control of this “Doctor” who meanwhile was having sex with all the women under the guise of helping them.
    My friend found himself flat broke and confused wandering Waikiki Beach where he was found by another cult the 3HO movement and they captured him. They were a Kundalini Yoga Cult. When his letter became more and more incoherent I sent him some money and met him in San Francisco to try to get him out of there. Spent five days with him a seemed to get him back to normal, but he said he’d return to Hawaii, pick up his belonging and return to NY. Needless to say he didn’t and when next I saw him, 8 years later, I found him insufferable in his eagerness to have me abandon my life and move to the hills of New Mexico, where his cult, now in survivalist mold was building a fortress to protect themselves what they saw was the imminent collapse of the world. He was for a time the closest male friend I’ve ever had as close as my own brother. He was destroyed psychologically.

    As we’ve discussed before Alan Watt’s books had a great influence on me and you are lucky to have met him. Baba Ram Dass also provided much insight. In the end though I’ve learned to trust my own vision of the world. One of the things that led me to give up being a psychotherapist was the realization of how many patients went into it not to change, but to find a maternal/paternal figure to help run their lives. That wasn’t what Fritz was purveying and while the money was good, my integrity was worth a lot more.

    A long winded way to get back to Traveling Limey and also what this thread is about. He may be very happy with Scientology, but in the end to me it is just another con that prey’s on people afraid to take responsibility for their own life.

  55. In re Scientology, not every government or society let’s them hide their Ponzi scheme behind the freedom of religion. Take Germany for example. And that’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.

  56. Mike, I take back my horseshit qualifier in the comment to Prairie Rose. The apology was sincere and say it again.

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