Alison George interviews Elizabeth Loftus. It’s good stuff, important stuff, and it relates to my view as a statistician that uncertainty and variation are important. Uncertainty is relevant here because there are things that people remember that never happened. Variation is important because different people remember different things.
Loftus’s work also seems relevant to the problems with pseudoscience that we’ve been discussing recently on the blog, studies where researchers follow the forms of scientific reasoning and publish in scientific journals, but what they are publishing is essentially unreplicable noise. Perhaps there’s some connection between all those people Loftus has interviewed, who remember events that never happened to them, and people such as Daryl Bem, who think they’ve computed rigorous p-values even though their analyses seem so clearly to be contingent on the data. It’s almost like a false memory, that scientists convince themselves that the analysis they happened to do after the data arrived, was exactly the analysis they’d planned to do ahead of time. Unfortunately there never seems to be a pre-data record of such a plan, but the memory is there.