The journal American Psychologist (July-August 2013 issue) awards Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology to Dr. Elizabeth Loftus of U.C. Irvine.
“Elizabeth F. Loftus has made extraordinary contributions to our understanding of memory during the past 40 years that are remarkable for their creativity and impact.
She has been a pioneering scientist in the area of memory distortion and false memories. Her imaginative and rigorous research has had a profound impact on the ﬁeld of psychology, on scholars outside the ﬁeld, and on the administration of justice around the world.”
Congratulations to Dr. Loftus – one of my heroes. Her work on eyewitness testimony is CRITICAL to understanding how to evaluate anecdotal evidence in science, crime investigation and life situations.
Many paranormalists argue with me about why I do not highly value eyewitness accounts. They have obviously no knowledge of how malleable human memory is and need to read Loftus’ work.
Besides her body of findings in this field, she has stood up for the facts even when it meant she paid for it professionally. There were no Satanists torturing children at day care facilities; rogue psychologists actually were using tactics that lead their patients to falsely accuse their family members of horrible acts; we are tremendously open to memory manipulation – it is not like a video tape at all. It was not easy to tell the “victims” they are wrong. But they were.
Her work (most famously showing that people recalled a false memory of seeing Bugs Bunny at Disneyworld, which is impossible) is directly responsible for why I am skeptical of eyewitness accounts of UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot and the like. She has been such a huge influence on the person I am today.
One of the texts that is essential reading for anyone who does any type of investigations is Eyewitness Testimony by Loftus. Get it. Learn from it. And stop using flawed anecdotal evidence as foundation for extraordinary claims.
You can read her biography for the award here [PDF]