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Elizabeth Loftus

Cognitive Psychologist, UC Irvine

Elizabeth F. Loftus is an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory. She has conducted extensive research on the malleability of human memory. Loftus is best known for her ground-breaking work on the misinformation effect and eyewitness memory, and the creation and nature of false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.

As well as her prolific work inside the laboratory, Loftus has been heavily involved in applying her research to legal settings. Loftus has been recognized throughout the world for her work, receiving numerous awards and honorary degrees. In 2002, Loftus was ranked 58th in the Review of General Psychology’s list of the 100 most influential psychological researchers of the 20th century, and was the highest ranked woman on the list.

Loftus received her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and psychology with highest honors from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her MA and PhD degrees in mathematical psychology from Stanford University, the only woman in her cohort. Her thesis was entitled “An Analysis of the Structural Variables That Determine Problem-Solving Difficulty on a Computer-Based Teletype.” Loftus took her first academic appointment at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Her research during her time there focused on the organization of semantic information in longterm memory. Loftus accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Washington and used the new position to begin a new line of research into how memory works in real-world settings, beginning the empirical study of eyewitness testimony. The misinformation effect became one of the most influential and widely known effects in psychology, and Loftus’ early work on the effect generated hundreds of follow-up studies examining factors that improve or worsen the accuracy of memories, and to explored the cognitive mechanisms underlying the effect.

Loftus has testified and advised courts about the nature of eyewitness memory for many cases. In 1975 Loftus set a legal precedent when she provided Washington State’s first expert testimony about eyewitness memory. Notable cases she has been involved in due to her expertise include the McMartin preschool trial, O.J. Simpson, the trials of mass murderers Ted Bundy, Willie Mak, and the Angelo Bueno, the Abscam cases, the trial of Oliver North, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the trial of the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma City bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and the Duke University Lacrosse team.

Loftus is a Fellow of the Committee of Skeptical Inquiry’s CSICOP Executive Council. She is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. She has also been a member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists since 1990. Loftus has been the president of the Association for Psychological Science, the Western Psychological Association, and the American Psychology-Law Society. She was on the governing board of the Psychonomic Society and on the board of directors for the Institute for the Study of the Trial.

Honors and Awards

She is an Honorary Fellow (and lifetime member) of the British Psychological Society, winner of the “In Praise of Reason” Award from the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, the Distinguished Contribution to Forensic Psychology Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the Distinguished Contribution to Basic and Applied Scientific Psychology Award from the American Association of Applied and Preventative Psychology, the Distinguished Contributions to Psychology and Law Award from the American Psychology-Law Society, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Howard Crosby Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists. Loftus has also received the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science, the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science, a Contributions to Sexual Science Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, the William T. Rossiter Award from the Forensic Mental Health Association of California, the Quad-L Award from the University of New Mexico, a Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association, a Grawemeyer Award in Psychology from the University of Louisville, and the Lauds & Laurels Faculty Achievement Award from University of California, Irvine.

Loftus is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an elected Thorsten Sellin Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and an elected Corresponding Fellow to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Psi Chi, the American Philosophical Society, Elected Humanist Laureate by the International Academy of Humanism. Loftus has also received a total of six honorary degrees in a variety of fields: a Doctor of Science from Miami University, a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Leiden University in the Netherlands, Doctor of Laws from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, Doctor of Science from the University of Portsmouth, a Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa from University of Haifa in Israel, and a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Oslo.

Topic Series


Myth Of Repressed Memory P

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Eyewitness Testimony: With a New Preface

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Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial

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