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Elizabeth Loftus

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Elizabeth F. Loftus (1944) is a psychologist who works on human memory and how it can be changed by facts, ideas, suggestions and other forms of post-event information. Her work is controversial, and has much direct application in law and other fields.

Loftus has acted as an expert witness in hundreds of sexual and Satanic ritual abuse cases throughout the USA, typically for the defense.

Training and Career

Dr. Loftus received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and psychology from UCLA in 1966. She went on to receive her MA ('67) and Ph.D in psychology ('70) both from Stanford University.

She is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society, and the Department of Cognitive Sciences, and a Fellow of The Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. She is also an Affiliate Professor of Psychology and Affiliate Professor of Law at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Loftus is also a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation's Scientific and Professional Advisory Board, as well as being newly elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is past president of the American Psychological Society.

Research

One of her famous studies include the "car accident" study, which was an example of the misinformation effect.

She is also famous for developing the Lost in the mall technique for creating false memories in the laboratory.

"Memories of childhood sexual abuse"

A 1994 study by Loftus et al.[1] found that 19% of adult females who were sexually abused as children "forgot the abuse for a period of time, and later the memory returned."

Jane Doe Case

"Jane Doe" was the subject of a case study published in 1997 by Dr. David Corwin on issues of repressed and recovered memory.[2] Neither the study nor later follow-up studies and articles referred to her by her real name. As a psychiatrist retained in a divorce case, Corwin had videotaped an interview with Jane Doe - then six years old - in which she claimed to have suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her biological mother. Eleven years later, Corwin showed Jane Doe the original tape after obtaining approval from her and her guardian. Corwin then videotaped a follow-up interview in which Jane Doe appeared to spontaneously recall another abusive event she had suffered despite having had no conscious memory of abuse in the years since the initial interview. Corwin published a transcript of the tape and an explanatory article. With Doe's permission, Corwin also played portions of both videotapes to numerous professional audiences.

Loftus hired a private investigator in California and together with co-researcher Melvin Guyer undertook a subsequent investigation into the case, reviewed extensive court records and interviewed Jane's mother and foster mother. In 2002, based on the information obtained, Loftus and Guyer published an article entitled "Who Abused Jane Doe? The Hazards of the Single Case History" in the Skeptical Inquirer. The article was highly critical of the scientific validity of Corwin's 1997 article, and questioned the factual accuracy of his account.[3]

On February 23, 2003, "Jane Doe", using her real name of Nicole Taus, sued Loftus, the University of Washington and others alleging invasion of privacy and other torts. Twenty of the twenty-one counts against Loftus were dismissed by the trial court or reviewing courts as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation", intended to punish the defendants for academic activity protected by the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. In February, 2007, the California Supreme Court ordered dismissal of all but one count, allowing Taus to proceed on her claim that Loftus misrepresented herself as Corwin's supervisor in interviewing Taus's foster mother.[4][5][6][7]

The case was settled on August 28, 2007, when Loftus's acceptance of Taus's offer was filed. Loftus agreed to pay $7,500, instead of the amount of over $1,000,000 that was requested by Taus and both were responsible for their own legal costs. In November 2007, Taus was ordered to pay the others she sued over $246,000.[8][9][10]

Scooter Libby trial

On October 26, 2006, Loftus was called as the first defense witness in a pretrial hearing in the federal perjury case against Presidential aide Lewis Libby.[11] Under cross-examination by Patrick Fitzgerald, Loftus struggled to explain her research and apparent contradictions between her testimony and her work, also stating that based on comments by her peers and even her own work that there were limitations in her methods and conclusions.[12]

References

  1. Loftus, E.F., Polonsky, S., & Fullilove, M. T. (1994). "Memories of childhood sexual abuse: Remembering and repressing. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, pp. 767-845. Abstract: "Women involved in out-patient treatment for substance abuse were interviewed to examine their recollections of childhood sexual abuse. Overall, 54% of the women reported a history of childhood sexual abuse. The majority (81.1%) remembered all or part of the abuse their whole lives; 19% reported they forgot the abuse for a period of time, and later the memory returned. Women who remembered the abuse their whole lives reported a clearer memory, with a more detailed picture. They also reported greater intensity of feelings at the time the abuse happened. Women who remembered the abuse their whole lives did not differ from others in terms of the violence of the abuse or whether the abuse was incestuous. These data bear on current discussions concerning the extent to which repression is a common way of coping with child sexual abuse trauma, and also bear on some widely held beliefs about the correlates of repression."
  2. Corwin, D., Olafson E. (1997). Videotaped Discovery of a Reportedly Unrecallable Memory of Child Sexual Abuse: Comparison with a Childhood Interview Videotaped 11 Years Before. Child Maltreatment 2 (2): 91–112.
  3. Loftus, EF, Guyer MJ (2002). Who Abused Jane Doe? The Hazards of the Single Case History.
  4. Taus v. Loftus (2007) 40 Cal.4th 683, 54 Cal.Rptr.3d 775.
  5. S.C. to Decide Whether Abuse-Study Subject May Sue Professor Re: Nicole Taus, David Corwin, 2005
  6. Taus: Amicus Curia by Richard McNally 2005
  7. Taus: Amicus Curia by Michael J. Snedeker May 26, 2005
  8. Loftus, Elizabeth (May 2008). Perils of Provocative Scholarship. Observer 21 (5): pp. 13–15.
  9. Settlement reached in Taus's lawsuit
  10. Tavris, Carol (January/February 2008). Whatever Happened to 'Jane Doe'?. Skeptical Inquirer 32 (1): pp. 28–30.
  11. includeonly>"Memory Expert Pressed In C.I.A. Leak Case.", Associated Press in New York Times, October 27, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-06-06.
  12. includeonly>"In the Libby Case, A Grilling to Remember.", Washington Post, October 27, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-09-25. “But when Fitzgerald got his chance to cross-examine Loftus about her findings, he had her stuttering to explain her own writings and backpedaling from her earlier assertions. Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.”

Books

  • Loftus, EF (1979) Eyewitness Testimony ISBN 0674287770
  • Loftus, EF Witness for the Defense:The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial (1991) ISBN 0312084552
  • Loftus, EF The Myth of Repressed Memory : False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse (1994) ISBN 0312141238

External links


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