Loftus & Pickerell (1995)
Lost in a Shopping Mall
(Creating new memories)


Participants: 24 adults, 18-53 yrs old, plus one parent or older sibling for each subject


  1. The parent or older sibling in each pair was interviewed to obtain:
    • Information about 3 events that actually happened to the younger person between the ages of 4-6
    • Information about where the family might have gone shopping, and who would likely have been on a shopping trip, when the subject was 4-6 years old.
  2. 4 paragraphs were then written for each subject--3 about real events, plus a false story about a "shopping trip".  These stories included the following elements:
    • name of the mall & family members on the trip
    • the participant was 5 years old at the time
    • he/she was lost for an extended period of time
    • crying
    • found and returned to family by an elderly woman
    • example of a false story:
     "You, your mom, and your sister all went to the Bremerton K-Mart.  You must have been five years old at the time. Your Mom gave each of you some money to get a blueberry ICEE.  You ran ahead to get into the line first, and somehow lost your way in the store. Your sister found you crying to an elderly Chinese woman.  You three then went together to get an ICEE."


    1. Each of the 24 subjects then received a booklet with the 4 paragraphs (3 true and one false) and told that all were based on stories from the parent or older sibling.
    2. The subjects then read the 4 paragraphs and wrote down all that they could remember about each incident.  This was repeated 1-2 weeks later (same paragraphs) and then one more time a couple of weeks later.
    3. At the end of the experiment, the subjects were told that one of the paragraphs was false, they they were asked which one.


      • 68% of true events were remembered,  25% of false events were "remembered"
      • The participants' descriptions of the false events often included additional information--how they felt while lost, what the woman was wearing, what they talked about, etc.
      • Descriptions of the false events were briefer (50 vs 138 words) than for the real events, and average clarity ratings of the memories were higher for the true events than for the false events (clarity ratings of 3.6 vs.6.3 out of 10)
      • This quote from the original Loftus & Pickerell (1995) article may help you understand:

        Here is an example from one subject who was led to believe that she had been lost at the Hillsdale Shopping Mall.  She described her getting lost experience using 66 words (as opposed to a mean of 128 words for her true memories).   During the second interview she said "I vaguely, vague, I mean this is very vague, remember the lady helping me and Tim and my mom doing something else, but I don't remember crying.  I mean I can remember a hundred times crying.....  I just remember bits and pieces of it.  I remember being with the lady. I remember going shopping.  I don't think I, I don't remember the sunglasses part."   She went on to remember that the elderly lady who helped her was "heavy-set and older.  Like my brother said, nice." She gave her false memory a clarity rating of 4 [out of 5].


      • When told that one of the paragraphs was false and asked which they thought it might be, 19 of the 24 subjects correctly picked the "lost in a mall" story; five (21%) selected an event that had really happened.
      • In more recent research, people have been led to "remember" spilling punch on a bride's dress at a wedding reception and being in the hospital.