Memory & Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 114–120 | Cite as

Since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, has anyone beaten you up? Improving the accuracy of retrospective reports with landmarkevents

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
  • Wesley Marburger


When people are questioned about past experiences, it is common for eventsto be reported as happening more recently than they actually did. One technique for reducing the instances of this “forward telescoping” is tested in the current research: It involves the provision of landmark events that can clearly mark the beginning of the reference period. Such atechnique was shown to reduce the telescoping problem in five experiments, involving 1, 694 subjects. The landmark event used in two of the studies was the first major eruption of Mt. St. Helens, and use of this event was shown to significantly reduce the incidence of forward telescoping of crime victimizations. Asking subjects to provide their own personal landmarks had similar beneficial effects. Finally, a more usual public landmark event, New Year’s day, substantially reduced forward telescoping. At least part, but not all, of the benefit of landmark events appears to be due to their being dated rather precisely.


Reference Period Memory Strength Absolute Judgment Crime Victimization Temporal Judgment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
    • 1
  • Wesley Marburger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle

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