April 14, 2021 Comments Off on Elizabeth Loftus
– A Brief History of the False Memory Research of Elizabeth Loftus
– Ethics Complaints Filed Against FMSF Board Member Elizabeth Loftus
– “Lost in a Shopping Mall” A Breach of Professional Ethics
– Quotes: Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D.
– The Alleged Ethical Violations of Elizabeth Loftus in the Case of Jane Doe
The lost- in- a-shopping-mall study (Loftus and Pickrell, 1995) provided initial scientific support for the claim that child sexual abuse accusations are false memories planted by therapists. However, the mall study researchers faced a problem early on—the participants could tell the difference between the true and false memories….
1993 – The first indication the study might not live up to the challenge became public in 1993. Coan reported in his honors thesis that six subjects had completed the study, and “all subjects were able to correctly identify the false memory.” (Coan, 1993, p. 16.)….
1995 – In June, evidence of possible research misconduct in an earlier study was reported in a journal of the American Psychological Association. Koss, Tromp and Tharan (1995, p. 120) demonstrated that the data in Loftus and Burns (1982, p. 320) did not support the authors’ claim that “those who saw the mentally shocking version showed poorer retention of the details of the films” (Loftus and Burns, p. 318). Instead, the data indicated poorer retention for one unimportant detail. (See:
Ethics Complaints Filed Against FMSF Board Member Elizabeth Loftus
American Psychological Association Declines to Investigate
Journal article by Treating Abuse Today
In December 1995, two women filed ethics complaints with the American Psychological Association (APA) against Elizabeth Loftus, PhD, regarding her published statements about two legal cases involving delayed memories of sexual abuse. Citing procedural considerations, however, the APA has declined to investigate the women’s ethics complaints.
Jennifer Hoult (a concert harpist living in New York) and Lynn Crook (a Washington State consultant) each filed separate complaints with the APA, alleging that Loftus mischaracterized the facts of their legal cases in published articles. Both women brought successful civil suits because of the sexual abuse that the fathers (and the mother, in Crook’s case) perpetrated against them during their childhoods. At their trials, they presented corroborative evidence that met the requirements for judicial proof of their allegations.
Loftus serves on the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc (FMSF). She also had been an active member of the APA since 1973, but she resigned in January 1996, shortly after the filing of the complaints. In a brief telephone interview with Treating Abuse Today, Loftus confirmed her resignation from the APA, but she denied any knowledge of the ethics complaints. She also cautioned that Treating Abuse Today should not state or imply that she resigned from the APA to avoid investigation of the ethics complaints…..
In her complaint, Hoult alleges that Loftus used distortion and misstatement of fact to seriously misrepresent Hoult’s legal case. In 1988 Hoult brought a civil suit against her father, alleging that he had raped and otherwise sexually abused her throughout her childhood. After several years of legal wrangling, the case finally went to trial in June 1993. On July 1, 1993, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jennifer Hoult, awarding her $500,000 for the suffering caused by her father’s incestuous abuse. All higher courts have upheld the jury’s decision, including the first circuit appellate court. When Hoult’s father petitioned the US Supreme Court, his petition was rejected as untimely. At some point during all these proceedings, Hoult’s father joined the FMSF…..
Hoult also alleges that Loftus used mischaracterization and omission of facts to misconstrue Hoult’s legal case against her father. She pointed out many inaccuracies that support this allegation. In the article, for instance, Loftus claims that “Jennifer was a 23-year-old musician who recovered memories in therapy of her father raping her from the time she was 4” (1995, p. 26). Actually, Hoult began to remember the abuse at 24, at which time she was an artificial intelligence software engineer. Records in the case show that the bulk of her memories emerged outside of therapy. Furthermore, Hoult never stated that the rapes began when she was four, a “fact” apparently created by Loftus for the purposes of her article….
In October 1991, Lynn Crook brought a civil suit against her parents based on her delayed memories of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by her parents. Loftus testified as an expert witness for the defense. On March 4, 1994, the judge in the case ruled in Crook’s favor, awarding her $149,580 in damages against her parents, who chose not to appeal the case to any higher court.
In the January/February 1995 issue of PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, Jill Neimark published an article titled “It’s Magical. It’s Malleable. It’s . . . Memory.” In her article, Neimark quotes Loftus, who gives an abridged and (according to Crook) seriously distorted account of her case against her father….
In an interview with Treating Abuse Today, Crook stated that Loftus’s 79-word direct quote describing her case contained nine misstatements. “Loftus reworded events I recalled, and incorrectly claimed that a ‘fantastical’ memory had resulted in my filing this case.” Crook pointed out, for instance, that Loftus contradicted her father’s own sworn testimony that his health was “excellent.” Crook also argues that Loftus should have pointed out that she (Crook) won the case, after presenting evidence that included testimony from two of her sisters who also remembered incestuous abuse perpetrated against them by their father….
In May, David Corwin and Erna Olafson published a case study of a videotaped, spontaneously-recovered memory of child sexual abuse (Corwin and Olafson, 1997). The videotape provided evidence to suggest that a repressed memory of childhood abuse could be recalled. (See http://data.memberclicks.com/site/apsac/jane_doe.pdf). Loftus hired Shapiro Investigations to assist in the investigation, and travelled to California to interview Doe’s family members, allegedly introducing herself as the supervisor of David Corwin whom Jane Doe knew and trusted. In 1999, Jane Doe filed an ethics complaint against Loftus with the University of Washington. In July 2001, the University completed a 20-month investigation during which Loftus was not allowed to discuss the case. The University required Loftus to complete an ethics course and to restrict her relationship with Jane Doe’s mother….
“Lost in a Shopping Mall” A Breach of Professional Ethics
ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, vol. 9, #1, pp. 39-50
Lynn S. Crook
Martha C. Dean
ABSTRACT: The “lost in a shopping mall” study has been cited to support claims that psychotherapists can implant memories of false autobiographical information of childhood trauma in their patients. The mall study originated in 1991 as 5 pilot experiments involving 3 children and 2 adult participants. The University of Washington Human Subjects Committee granted approval for the mall study on August 10, 1992. The preliminary results with the 5 pilot subjects were announced 4 days later. An analysis of the mall study shows that beyond the external misrepresentations, internal scientific methodological errors cast doubt on the validity of the claims that have been attributed to the mall study within scholarly and legal arenas. The minimal involvement or, in some cases, negative impact of collegial consultation, academic supervision, and peer review throughout the evolution of the mall study are reviewed….
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.
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).
The Alleged Ethical Violations of Elizabeth Loftus in the Case of Jane Doe
In 1997, David Corwin published an article in the May 1997 Child Maltreatment Issue “Videotaped discovery of a reportedly unrecallable memory of child sexual abuse: comparison with a childhood interview videotaped 11 years before.” The woman named as Jane Doe, had agreed to this publication of the article of her case with Corwin. Loftus, then with the University of Washington and Melvin Guyer, with the University of Michigan and a private investigator ascertained the real identity of Jane Doe. They interviewed her mother, brother, stepmother and foster mother….
Loftus’ alleged violations of ethics darkened Loftus’ relationship with the University of Washington (UW).
Her colleagues there questioned the methods she had used in her challenge of Corwin’s work. University officials began a 21-month investigation of Loftus’ research on this case. David Hodge, Dean at UW’s College of Arts and Sciences stated that university rules for research on human subjects were primarily written for medical experimentation. John Slattery, director of the UW’s Office of Scholarly Integrity in 1997 stated that Loftus’ would have had to seek UW’s permission to interview people and probably would have been required to give UW’s IRB a list of questions being asked and a form explaining the risks of being interviewed. She probably would have been required to ask Corwin for permission to interview Jane and review records.
But Loftus believes she is justified in exposing Jane’s identity. She believes that the secrecy rules used to protect patients or research subjects should not be used to hide the truth. In the middle of the investigation, Loftus called Corwin. Corwin told Loftus that Jane wanted to communicate with Loftus through him. Jane told the University of Washington’s officials that she disagreed with Loftus’ finding her mother and her stepmother for interviews. Loftus also admitted befriending Jane’s biological mother. Loftus admits she was largely motivated by her desire to unite mother and daughter (Jane). Loftus was cleared of wrongdoing by the UW committee, but the committee required her to get the permission of the IRB before talking to Jane’s mother again. The committee also wanted Loftus to take an ethics’ class. After this, Loftus left UW for the University of California, Irvine….
Loftus is facing an impending lawsuit by Jane Doe (Nicole Taus) in Solano County, California. Loftus and several others are being accused of defamation, libel per se, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional invasion of privacy, distress and damages. Taus alleges that Loftus’ research disclosed her private information and revealed her identity. Taus lawsuits claims this has subjected her and her family to additional emotional distress from past events, that Loftus and Guyer didn’t conduct or plan their research with regard for her safety and welfare and that procedures were not in place for the researchers or Taus herself to watch the project and report any possible problems. Taus also states that Loftus and Guyer purposefully mischaracterized the records and information they received and reviewed….
Loftus obviously made a boundary crossing when she moved from the role of researcher to friend. Loftus’ objectivity may also have been diminished by her friendship with Jane’s mother. Also, could Loftus’ desire to unite mother and daughter make her biased to the mother’s perspective? If it is unhealthy for a psychologist to become friends with a client, then should a researcher become friends with one of their subjects?….