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Core Studies


Here is a readable pdf version of the original study.


Elizabeth Loftus' home page can be found here at the University of Washington. It gives links to several of her articles, about the 'false memory' problem, but there is less stuff about her eyewitness testimony work


Elizabeth Loftus





Elizabeth Loftus' work is summarised here on wikipidea which hints at some of the controvesies of her research into false memories.








Here is an old school pdf that you download and answer the questions with a pen.



You can buy the classic studies dvd from online classroom which includes footage of traffic accidents and demonstrates Loftus? research and findings, discussing some of the issues raised by errors in eyewitness testimony.


Home > Cognitive > The Loftus and Palmer Page

The Loftus and Palmer Page

Loftus, E.F. & Palmer, J.C. (1974) Reconstruction of auto-mobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 13, 585 -589

On this page you should find lots of useful stuff to help you in your learning of Loftus and Palmer's experiment.

Here is the most important page. Click here for a summary and evaluation of the Loftus experiment.

This page has lots of Core Studies Section A questions that you might want to practice. Please don?t email me for the answers though.

Here is a multi choice quiz a matching the speed quiz, and matching the glass quiz to test your knowledge of the study.

Fed up with reading and doing multiple choice type quizzes? You could sit back and watch free Loftus related videos here on

And here is a great page on Jamie?s psychblog where you can read the original study and more articles related to this study.



Below is a much briefer summary of Loftus and Palmer experiment.

The aim of Loftus and Palmer?s experiments was to investigate how information supplied after an event, influences a witness's memory for that event.

First Experiment

The participants in the first experiment were 45 students of the University of Washington.

They were each shown seven film-clips of traffic accidents. Following each clip, the students were asked to write an account of the accident they had just seen. They were also asked to answer some specific questions but the critical question was to do with the speed of the vehicles involved in the collision.

There were five conditions in the experiment (each with nine participants) and the independent variable was manipulated by means of the wording of the questions.

The critical question was ?About how fast were the cars going when they ***** each other?'. In each condition, a different word or phrase was used to fill in the blank. These words were; smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted.

The dependent variable was the speed estimates given by the participants.

Speed estimates for the verbs used in the estimation of speed question

Verb Mean estimate of speed (mph)
Smashed 40.8
Collided 39.3
Bumped 38.1
Hit 34.0
Contacted 31.8

The results demonstrated that the phrasing of the question brought about a change in speed estimate. With smashed eliciting a higher speed estimate than contacted.

Second Experiment

A similar procedure was used whereby 150 student participants viewed a short (one minute) film which contained a 4 second scene of a multiple car accident, and were then questioned about it. There were three conditions and the independent variable was manipulated by the wording of the question.

50 of the participants were asked 'How fast were the cars going when they hit each other??

50 of the participants were asked 'How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?'

50 of the participants were not interrogated about the speed of the vehicles.

One week later, the participants returned and, without viewing the film again, they answered a series of questions about the accident. The critical question was 'Did you see any broken glass?' The critical question was part of a longer series of questions and was placed in a random position on each participants question paper. There was in fact no broken glass in the film. Response to the question 'Did you see any broken glass?'

Response Smashed Hit Control
Yes 16 7 6
No 34 43 44

These results show a significant effect of the verb in the question on the mis-perception of glass in the film. Those participants that heard the word smashed were more than twice as likely to recall seeing broken glass.

Loftus and Palmer gave two interpretations/explanations for the findings of their 1st experiment.

1. Firstly, they argued that the results could be due to a distortion in the memory of the participant. The memory of how fast the cars were travelling could have been distorted by the verbal label which had been used to characterise the intensity of the crash.

2. Secondly, they argue that the results could be due to response-bias factors, in which case the participant is not sure of the exact speed and therefore adjusts his or her estimate to fit in with the expectations of the questioner. (This is also an example of a demand characteristic)

The second experiment though offers more support for the second explanation.

To account for the results of the second experiment, Loftus and Palmer developed the following explanation called the reconstructive hypothesis:

They argue that two kinds of information go into a person's memory of an event. The first is the information obtained from perceiving an event (e.g. witnessing a video of a car accident), and the second is the other information supplied to us after the event (e.g. the question containing hit or smashed). Over time, the information from these two sources may be integrated in such a way that we are unable to tell from which source some specific detail is recalled. All we have is one 'memory'.

For example in Loftus and Palmer's 2nd experiment, the participants first form some memory of the video they have witnessed. The experimenter then, while asking, "About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?" supplies a piece of external information, namely, that the cars did indeed smash into each other. When these two pieces of information are integrated, the participant has a memory of an accident that was more severe than in fact it was. Since broken glass corresponds to a severe accident, the participant is more likely to think that broken glass was present.