Quotes: Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D.


Wortman, C. and Loftus, E. Psychology. (1981) Alfred A. Knopf: New York, p. 203. Thus a young woman who is sexually attracted to her father may try to repress her disturbing incestuous desires.  But her behavior may indicate that these feelings are not completely forgotten.  The woman may pause or fumble for words when discussing certain things about her father and she may show other signs of anxiety such as sweating or blushing.

Loftus, G.R and Loftus, E.L. (1976). Human Memory – The Processing of Information. Lawrence Erlbaum Associated: New Jersey, p. 82-83.
A laboratory analogy to repression can be found in an experiment by A.F. Zeller.
Zeller arranged a situation so that one group of students underwent an unhappy “failure” experience right after they had successfully learned a list of nonsense syllables.  When tested later, these subjects showed much poorer recall of the nonsense syllables compared to a control group, who had not experienced failure.  When this same “failure” group was later allowed to succeed on the same task that they had earlier failed, their recall showed tremendous improvement.  This experiment indicates that when the reason for the repression is removed, when material to be remembered is no longer associated with negative effects, a person no longer experiences retrieval failure.”

It’s not unusual for killers to have amnesia about event. Saturday, February 15, 1997, Section: News, Page: A3   It is possible to commit a murder and then forget you did it, according to a leading memory researcher.  A significant proportion of people who commit murders have some amnesia surrounding the event, particularly if it is a crime of passion, University of Washington psychologist Elizabeth Loftus said yesterday.

Loftus, E. (1979). Reactions to blatantly contradictory information. Memory & Cognition, 7(5), p. 371.   In two experiments, subjects were shown a complex event and were later exposed to misinformation about that event.  In addition, some subjects received a piece of blatantly contradictory misinformation.  Blatant misinformation both was rejected by subjects and caused them to be more resistant to other misinformation . . . Second, when an attempt is  made to mislead a person about a detail that is patently false the person becomes more resistant to suggestions of any kind….”

Deposition Upon Oral Examination of Elizabeth Loftus, PhD.
, Seignious v. Fair et al., January 22, 1998, In the Superior Court of Fulton County, State of Georgia #E-56169 p. 125
Q. Have you ever contemplated actually doing a study somewhere along the lines I was just talking about where you have no crime scene at all and then you try to convince someone there was a crime scene or crime event?
A. [Loftus] No I haven’t thought about that but that’s kind of an interesting idea.

Loftus, E. (1993, January 18). Deposition upon oral examination of Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D.
Carol C. Smith, vs. Richard Alton Smith, Case No. 67 52 64, Superior Court in the State of California in and for the County of Orange, 67-69.
Q: [Reading from M.R.’s report, page 53, line 20] “There are no reliable methods for sorting out which of these allegations may be true or false apart from observations from other witnesses who may be able to provide data either tending to support or tending to refute the validity of the allegations and the overall patterns of circumstances surrounding the incidents.”  Do you have an opinion on that statement?
A: [Loftus] I believe you need corroboration to sort out true allegations from false ones.  That part of it I agree with.
Q: In the case of Carol Smith, what corroboration would you require to enforce the reliability, the believability, of her memories?
A: I don’t know what it would look like, maybe photographs.
Q: Of what?
A: Abuse happening.
Q: You mean a Rod King video?
A: There are cases of sex abuse where there are photographs and videotapes.

Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K. (1991). Witness for the Defense. St. Martin’s Press: New York, p. 72.  Most of the time, perhaps 99 percent of the time, the defendant is guilty; his screams are the final protest of a human being about to lost his most precious possession, his freedom.

Loftus, E. (1993). The reality of repressed memories. American Psychologist, 48, 518-537.  http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/lof93.htm Some who question the authenticity of the memories of abuse do so in part because of the intensity and sincerity of the accused persons who deny the abuse . . . the current denials of those accused of sexual abuse are not proof that the allegations are false. Research with known rapists, pedophiles, and incest offenders has illustrated that they often exhibit a cognitive distortion –a tendency to justify, minimize, or rationalize their behavior (Gudjonsson, 1992). Because accused persons are motivated to verbally and even mentally deny an abusive past, simple denials cannot constitute cogent evidence that the victim’s memories are not authentic.

Loftus, E. (1986). Ten years in the life of an expert witness. Law and Human Behavior, 10(3), p. 242.  . . .  I now continue to battle against a growing horde of scalpel-wielding opponents . . .
Elizabeth Loftus.  June 14, 2001. Toronto William James Fellow Acceptance Speech. American Psychological Society.   Published in Skeptical Inquirer,  November / December 2001 William James Award & Acceptance Speech 2001  http://webfiles.uci.edu/eloftus/SkepticalInquirerWmJamesSpeech01.doc
I am gagged at the moment and may not give you any details. But to me, that itself is the problem. Who, after all, benefits from my silence? Who benefits from keeping such investigations in the dark? My inquisitors. The only people who operate in the dark are thieves, assassins, and cowards.

Testimony – US v. Libby

United States of America v. I. Lewis Libby; Docket No. 05-394 (RBW); October 26, 2006; United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Motion hearing before the Honorable Reggie B. Walton; Elizabeth Loftus, witness for the Defendant, p. 65
Q And the question they’re asked is “the act of remembering a traumatic event was like a video recording in that one can recall details as if they had been imprinted or burned into one’s brain?”  And 46 percent on the telephone say “Yes.” Forty-eight percent say “No.” And six percent say “Not sure.” Correct?
A [Loftus] Yes.
Q So a juror doesn’t necessarily think that memory is like a video recorder. . . .
A Well, that’s just one example of . . .
Q And isn’t it a fact that if you look down here in this same question
question number 11F the responses would actually show that jurors don’t understand memory to be so pristine in a video recording form?  Eighty percent . . . clearly understood it is not like a tape recorder to the extent that it can’t be wrong.  Eighty percent recognized it could be wrong correct? (p. 65)
A On item 11F, yes.
Q Within the same question. Yes.

No Memory Expert for Libby Trial
By Joel Seidman
NBC News  Thursday 02 November 2006


But after nearly three-hours of methodical cross-examination by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Dr. Loftus found it difficult at times even to explain her own writings. Fitzgerald had her backing away from her earlier assertions on memory. And the Special Counsel got Loftus to acknowledge – after citing several of her publications and methodology – that some of her own research was not that scientific, and that her conclusions about memory were conflicting. Fitzgerald – who read all of Loftus’s books and research himself to prepare for the hearing – found a line in one of her books that raised doubts about her research. Loftus responded, saying. “I don’t know how I let that line slip by.”

Other testimony

Brewer, S. (2000, April 1) Expert rips police ID methods – Defense witness admits first descriptions matched Goldberg.  Houston Chronicle, p. 33.
Loftus conceded under cross examination that she’s normally paid about $400 an hour and that in this case she has relied solely on information provided by [defense attorney Dick] DeGuerin …And in some her writings, which Loftus had trouble recalling on the stand, she also frequently portrays herself as a champion of defendants wronged by bad eyewitness testimony, another factor [prosecutor Kelly] Siegler used to question the expert’s motives.  In the most dramatic moment, Siegler got Loftus to acknowledge that Goldberg [the murder defendant] did, in fact, match the first basic descriptions given to police by Beckman [witness] and Ingrando’s [one of those who survived the assault] husband, Roland.

Before Judge Florence Ndepele Mwachande Mumba, Presiding in the Hague Trial Chamber.  (1998, December 10).  Prosecutor v. Anto Furundzija.  Online at: http://www.un.org/icty/furundzija/trialc2/judgement/fur-tj981210e.htm Loftus testified for Anto Furundzija – was charged with orchestrating multiple rapes of a woman to obtain information. The judge ruled:  “The evidence of expert witness Dr. Loftus, who did not examine any of the witnesses, but testified in these proceedings, was submitted to demonstrate the weakness of memory, in particular where shock is involved . . . The Trial Chamber is of the view that survivors of such traumatic experiences cannot reasonably be expected to recall the precise minutiae of events, such as exact dates or times. Neither can they reasonably be expected to recall every single element of a complicated and traumatic sequence of events. In fact, inconsistencies may, in certain circumstances, indicate truthfulness and the absence of interference with witnesses. The Trial Chamber therefore attaches no particular significance to the inconsistencies in the order in which Witnesses A and D say they entered the pantry.”

Intermural eyewitness suggestion

Inquiry Regarding Thomas Sophonow, click on “Problems Noted by Dr. Loftus,” at http://angel-diaz-florida.blogspot.com/2006/12/inquiry-regarding-thomas-sophonow.html (December 2, 2006).   For example, [Loftus] testified that when, as here, there are multiple witnesses who participated in the preparation of a composite drawing, those witnesses have an opportunity to influence one another. They often inadvertently supply each other with erroneous information. This is true even if they are not together in the room when the composite is being prepared. This, she noted, created problems with the identification made by Mrs. Janower. (Inquiry, Vol. 51, pages 8947-8949).

State of Missouri v. Ryan William Ferguson, Case No. 04CR165368-01, In the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, DivisionIII, Honorable Ellen S. Roper, Judge,  Cross examination of Elizabeth Loftus by prosecuting attorney Crane, p. 2031
Q Are we in agreement that there was no suggestion by anyone or anything to Mr. Erickson that he or Mr. Ferguson committed this crime? Are we in agreement on that?
A [Loftus] The only suggestion was in the mind of Mr. Erickson.
Q That’s not a suggestion
A Yes, it –it can be auto suggestion.
Q Suggesting it to himself”
A Exactly. It’s called auto suggestion.
Q Well, how about this then.  There was no external suggestion.
A None that I saw. Correct.

Cross-examined on Inconsistency between findings and conclusion in Loftus and Burns (1982)

Deposition of Elizabeth F. Loftus,  December 21, 2006 and January 4, 2007, Paul Liano v. The Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, an Arizona corporation’ Thomas O’Brien, Former Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix; Father Michael O’[Grady, Father Patrick Colleary, John Does 1-10 In the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for 6the County of Maricopa, p. 180
Q. But is it possible that by referring to the football jersey number as a key event and the conclusions of the paper that this might end up giving a distorted impress or bias to the conclusions of the study?
A [Loftus] Well, the data are all presented there and they speak for themselves, so if people wanted to have a different conclusion, they can try to do that.

Cross-examined on Inconsistency in Loftus, Miller and Burns (1978)

Deposition of Elizabeth F. Loftus,  December 21, 2006 and January 4, 2007, Paul Liano v. The Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, an Arizona corporation’ Thomas O’Brien, Former Biship of the Diocese of Phoenix; Father Michael O’[Grady, Father Patrick Colleary, John Does 1-10 In the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for 6the County of Maricopa, P. 180
Page 206
Q Didn’t they conclude that your findings in the red Datsun study showed the rate of acceptance of misinformation in your study was exaggerated and it was in part an artifact of a research design that fails to control for response bias?
A [Loftus] Well, I don’t remember exactly what they claim, but what they did was to give people a very peculiar test and not allow them to say what they wanted to say, so they didn’t even give people an opportunity to say they saw a screwdriver.

Cross-examined on Inconsistencies in Loftus and Pickrell (1995)

Deposition of Elizabeth F. Loftus,  December 21, 2006 and January 4, 2007, Paul Liano v. The Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, an Arizona corporation’ Thomas O’Brien, Former Biship of the Diocese of Phoenix; Father Michael O’[Grady, Father Patrick Colleary, John Does 1-10 In the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for 6the County of Maricopa
Page 211-212
Q But in that [mall] study did you control for demand characteristics?
A [Loftus] I don’t remember what we did to address the demand characteristic issue.
Q Did you control for response bias?
A I don’t remember that we did that.
Q Isn’t it true that only two of the 24 subjects fully accepted the false lost in the mall suggestion?
A Well, our report was that 25 percent accepted all or part of it.
Q. Wasn’t it in fact at 29 percent rather than 25 percent accepted all or part?
A Well, I usually use the more conservative figure of saying a quarter.
A  But is it more accurate, though, to say that only two accepted the false lost in the mall suggestion; in other words, fully accepted that as a memory they adopted?
A We wouldn’t have reported 25 if—I don’t know what you mean by fully, and I would have to go back and read the paper because it’s 12 years ago.
Q You would agree with me that if it were two out of the 24 and not the—I guess basically the six that you’re suggesting if it’s one-fourth that the acceptance rate should be a lot lower than your published acceptance rates?
A First of all numerous other researchers have gone on to adopt this methodology and they get much higher rates of subjects falling for the suggestion so I don’t have to defend the 25 percent rate when other people I mean are getting three percent or 50 percent false memory rate in these studies.

Feels like Schindler

Kahn, J. P. (1994, December 14). Trial by memory: Stung by daughters’ claims of abuse, a writer lashes back. Boston Globe , p. 80.
“I feel like Oskar Schindler, “ Loftus muses, referring to the German financier who rescued doomed Jews from the Nazis. ‘There is this desperate drive to work as fast as I can.”

Didn’t refer to herself as Schindler

Loftus, E.  (1998, April 27).  Testimony.  Rodriguez et al. v. Perez et al. King County Superior Court Cause No.: 98-2-07404-3
Q. And isn’t it true that you have, uh, identified yourself, uh, as somewhat of a crusader for what we refer to as the falsely accused?
A. Uh, I do care an awful lot about the falsely accused, yes.
Q. And haven’t you made public statements and referred to yourself as the Oscar Schindler of [the] falsely accused?
A. That, that is absolutely false.  It’s been taken out context and distorted.
Q. So you don’t, you don’t regard yourself in that light, is that correct?
A. Well, if you’d like the truth of exactly what I said, I’d be happy to provide that.
Q. I’ll let Mr. Beecher delve into that.

On Ted Bundy – Loftus testified as a defense expert for Bundy in 1976, Bundy was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping

Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K. (1991). Witness for the Defense.  St. Martin’s Press: New York.  The thought had occurred to me as I was flying to Salt Lake City earlier that day that Ted Bundy might offer to let me stay in his apartment” (p. 74).

Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K. (1991). Witness for the Defense.  St. Martin’s Press: New York.  In court the next morning I sat at a table in the judge’s chambers.  On the other side of the table, close enough for me to reach across and touch him, sat Ted Bundy.  He’s adorable, I thought, surprised at my first impression, because I’d pictured him in my mind as brooding, dark, intense disdain (p. 83).