Memory expert to lecture at La Trobe

A world-leading specialist in the fallibility of human memory, whose work underpins current US law reform on eye witness testimony, is visiting Australia to deliver the La Trobe University Psychology Alumni Lecture tomorrow night, Tuesday 10 September 2013.

Loftus_Elizabeth-81-250She is Elizabeth Loftus (pictured left), a high-profile psychology and criminology expert from the University of California, Irvine, who will also lecture to La Trobe psychology students and meet with academic staff.

In her alumni lecture, titled Illusions of Memory, Professor Loftus will speak about how memories can be distorted by other ideas and suggestions.

‘We can, through suggestion, create entire memories in the minds of people for things that never happened,’ she says. ‘This can have significant implications for witnesses.’

An article in the 15 August issue of the leading science journal Nature says that in a career spanning four decades, Professor Loftus, ‘has done more than any other researcher to document the unreliability of memory in experimental settings’.

‘And she has used what she has learned to testify as an expert witness in hundreds of criminal cases… informing juries that memories are pliable and that eyewitness accounts are far from perfect recordings of actual events.’

The article says the now 68-year-old scientist’s research is starting to bring about lasting changes in the legal system. 

‘In July last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling – based largely on her findings – that jurors should be alerted to the imperfect nature of memory and the fallibility of eyewitness testimony as standard procedure. Loftus is working with judges in other states to make such changes more widespread.’

Professor Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of legal cases including some of the most high-profile cases in America.

The article in Nature says these include ‘that of the serial killers known as the Hillside Stranglers and the 1992 trial of the police officers indicted for beating construction worker Rodney King’. 

‘She even consulted on a case involving a young law student named Ted Bundy, who was accused of kidnapping a woman in 1974. Bundy was convicted, only to escape. Recaptured in 1978, he eventually admitted to killing 30 people,’ the article says.

Professor Loftus has published 22 books including the award winning Eyewitness Testimony and almost 500 scientific articles, primarily on the malleability of human memory

A study in the Review of General Psychology rated Professor Loftus among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. In a list headed by Freud, Skinner and Piaget, she was ranked number 58, as the top female psychologist

More details are available here. 

Event details 

Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Time: 6.00pm

Venue: Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, 25 Collins Street, Melbourne.  

NB: All tickets have now been sold.

Media enquiries 

For interviews with Professor Loftus, further information, or if you wish to cover the event, please contact: 

Paula Williamson, School of Psychology: T 9479 2935 | M 0413 782 698 | E

Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications: T 9479 2315 | M 0412 261 919 E