58. Elizabeth F. Loftus 1944 -
Dr. Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of psychology and expert researcher on the malleability and reliability of repressed memories, is an instrumental figure in cognitive psychology. Loftus' work has made a huge contribution to psychology and opened a unique and controversial aspect of psychology and memory. She began her research with investigations of how the mind classifies and remembers information. In the 1970's, she began to reevaluate the direction of her research. In "Diva of Disclosure" published in Psychology Today, she stated "I wanted my work to make a difference in people's lives." Thus, she began her research on traumatically repressed memories and eyewitness accounts. Loftus suddenly found herself in the midst of sexual abuse stories and defending accused offenders. In 1974, her research thrust her into the courtroom to testify in over 200 trials as an expert witness on the unreliability of eyewitness testimonies based on false memories, which she believed to be triggered, suggested, implanted, or created in the mind. Her trials have included those of mass murderer Ted Bundy and George Franklin. She testifies with the hope of preventing an innocent victim from going to prison and protecting a family's unity. She has dedicated most of her life's work and energy to creating a vivid and brilliant model and theory showing that the memory is amazingly inventive and fragile. She has done innumerable studies of over 20,000 subjects showing that eyewitness testimonies are often unreliable and that false memories can be triggered in up to 25 percent of people merely by suggestion or giving of incorrect post event information (Niemark,1996). The majority of Loftus' research focuses on repressed sexual abuse memories from childhood, that suddenly reappear in adult women often twenty years or more after the events took place. Her work raises enormous doubt about the validity of long-buried memories of trauma.