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Elizabeth Loftus

Psychologist, Researcher, FMSF Advisory Board Member. Expert Witness for the Defense
Published influential studies on false memories, defended those accused of abuse in court as an expert witness.

“Loftus is a highly visible proponent of positions held by the Foundation and, obviously, highly respected.” - Pamela Freyd, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

Elizabeth Loftus is a professor of psychology on the advisory board for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. She specializes in research arguing that memory is inherently faulty and untrustworthy, as it can become clouded by post-event information. She has taken her work into court, testifying as an expert witness on memory. Loftus is almost always testifying for the defense, often in cases where her client has been accused of sexual abuse. She has testified for countless individuals, including famous cases such as Jeffery Epstein, Bill Cosby, Ted Bundy, and Harvey Weinstein.

During Loftus’ deposition in Sheldon vs. Hatlen, the plaintiff’s counsel referenced a time where Loftus stated that sexual abuse “wasn’t that big of a deal.” [2]

Loftus has continued to defend perpetrators of abuse in court as an expert witness – arguing on the basis of faulty or untrustworthy recovered memories – even in cases where there’s no question about the accuracy of memory. For example, in the case of Julie Herald, Loftus continued to defend Dennis Hood even after a tape recording of a full confession matching Herald’s memories surfaced. [3]

DO NOT INCLUDE: Furthermore, Loftus has opined on clinical evidence, despite having no experience or training with clinical cases.
Examples: quatrotchi?
[talk to cheit about this claim]

Ethics Complaints:
Two APA ethics complaints were filed against Loftus in December of 1995, citing her misrepresentation of facts in two cases regarding recovered memories. The complaints could not go forward and an investigation could not be conducted, as Loftus suddenly resigned from the APA less than a month later in January 1995 (several months after she renewed her membership). Loftus attests in her resignation letter that she resigned because the APA “moved away from scientific and scholarly thinking.” [4] However, the Hoffman report revealed that Loftus was notified of the complaint submission by the APA’s CEO, Raymond Fowler, allowing her to resign from the APA less than a month later in January. [5] This report goes against Loftus’ sworn testimony in court that she was not notified of the situation prior to resigning. [6, 7, 8]

The first ethics complaint filed with the APA was brought by Jennifer Hoult, concerning the civil suit she brought against her father (Hoult v. Hoult). She demonstrates that Loftus, who wrote an article in the popular press, altered facts of the case in an attempt to characterize it as an example of unreliable and implausible recovered memories. This included: altering the historical sequence of trauma and symptom manifestation by falsely claiming Hoult only remembered abuse after entering therapy, altering evidence about Hoult’s therapy by falsely claiming her therapist gave her memories of abuse, altering the content of Hoult’s memories to seem implausible, and omitting relevant evidence, such as David Hoult’s testimony that he molested a 10 year old babysitter. [9] These are a few examples of many, and a full description of the specific misrepresentations of fact written by Jennifer can be found here:
Loftus was not an expert witness in the case - she was uninvolved with this case in court. Her misrepresentation occurred with no direct connection to Hoult. It is unclear how she came to learn about the facts of the case. [9]

The second ethics complaint filed with the APA was brought by Lynn Crook, who states that Loftus "egregiously misrepresented the legally documented facts" of her case. In an interview with Jill Niemark for Psychology Today, Loftus used Crook’s case as an example of “fantastical” memories that “ruin lives.” Crook attests that in Loftus' 95 word summary, there were 12 misrepresentations of her case, as an attempt to portray her as "yet another victim of 'repressed memory' therapy." These include: altering the facts about her therapy, omitting corroborating accounts from her husband, her sisters, and her mother, and omitting concerning testimony from her father. [10]

Michele Landsburg wrote a column on Loftus’ ethics complaints and subsequent resignation from the APA. She describes how “The senior ethics investigator admitted to Hoult and Crook, in identical letters, that it’s “unusual" for a member to resign in “the window of time” between a complaint and its resolution. “Unusual” is hardly the word. Many members have voiced astonishment and anger over the association’s conduct.” [11]

Taus v. Loftus:
When Nicole Taus was 6, she made allegations of sexual abuse against her mother, and was forensically interviewed and videotaped by David Corwin. 11 years later, Taus asked Corwin to view the videotape of the forensic interview; while she knew about the allegations, she could not recall memories of the abuse itself. Corwin agreed, and during the taped informed consent discussion – before viewing the videotapes – Taus suddenly recalled memories of abuse. “At the moment of recall, Jane Doe has an abrupt shift in affect, becoming tearful, and makes a statement about the incident that is similar to her original disclosure at age 6.” [12] With Taus’ informed consent, relevant segments of the two videotapes (the original allegations and sudden recall) were published anonymously by Corwin as a case report of recovered memories. This case study, subsequent commentaries, and these tapes were widely distributed among trauma therapists. They rivaled researchers who argued that recovered memories did not exist.

Two years after the case report was published, Elizabeth Loftus hired a private investigator to scrutinize Nicole Taus’ life. Tipped off by an old highschool friend in late 1997, Taus contacted Loftus asking her to stop. Loftus continued the investigation regardless, meeting and questioning Taus’ friends, brother, stepmother, and foster mother. Taus’ foster mother reports that Loftus misrepresented herself as Corwin’s supervisor. [13] Loftus also befriended Taus’ biological mother, “the woman who had been found to have physically and sexually abused Nicole as a child.” [14] Loftus’ private investigator somehow gained access to juvenile court records which had been sealed to protect Taus’ privacy. [14]

Taus filed an ethics complaint with the University of Washington in 1999 concerning Loftus’ private investigation. Loftus’ records were seized [13], and after 22 months of investigation, [12] "Loftus was instructed not to contact Taus’s mother again without permission" [14] and was recommended to take an ethics course. Two of the three IRB committee members at the University of Washington recommended that Loftus be further reprimanded, but a dean overturned that recommendation. [14] This prompted Loftus to leave the University of Washington, moving to the University of California at Irvine. [12]

In 2002, Loftus published a two-part article about Taus in the scientific inquirer, a popular magazine, telling an “alternative history of Taus’s experience, contradicting and expanding upon that offered in Corwin and Olafson’s (1997) manuscript.” [15] The article portrayed both Taus and her father, neither of whom were interviewed, in a negative light. Instead, it included interviews with Taus’ biological mother, arguing for her narrative surrounding the divorce and sexual abuse case. Loftus asserted that Taus had “probably had not been abused at all, and if she was, it was probably by her now-deceased father.” [14] Publishing this article broke the confidentiality of the case study and arguably violated Taus’ right to privacy.

In February 2003, Taus sued Loftus in civil court. This was her last resort, as Loftus was not subject to any professional organization’s oversight: she “was not licensed in any state and was not a member of the American Psychological Association, an organization that publishes ethical guidelines for its members.” [13] In court, Loftus argued that she was operating as a journalist, not a psychiatrist. [14] As such, out of concern regarding media and its right to free speech, the court dismissed many of the counts Taus brought against Loftus. However, Loftus settled on one count: Taus’ claim that Loftus misrepresented herself to Taus’ biological mother. As all but one count was lost, Loftus argued that Taus’ case was a slapp suit case, which bankrupted Taus by saddling her with almost all of the legal fees. Taus lost her homes and her burgeoning career with the US navy. [13]

In 2014, eight commentaries were published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence about the Taus’ case study. They include discussions as to why Loftus’ actions violated both psychological and journalistic ethical principles, Taus’ description of the events, errors in Loftus’ published article, and implications for future controversial case studies.

Introduction to the Series. (Constance Dalenberg)
Impact: This article summarizes the main arguments as to why Loftus’ work was unethical, and the defense presented by Loftus & Guyer. Secondly, the impacts and implications of Taus v. Loftus on case studies are discussed: the lack of privacy given to participants of case studies, the inability to provide informed consent about later investigative journalism, and the protections needed for case studies to continue to be published.

Published Case Reports: One Woman's Account of Having Her Confidentiality Violated. (Nicole S. Kluemper, Formerly Nicole Taus)
Impact: This article is written by Nicole Taus years after her lawsuit against Loftus, chronicling her experience throughout the case report, the invasive private investigation, ethical complaint submission, lawsuit and settlement, and the effect on her life in the aftermath. Taus describes how upon reading Loftus’ article, she “was appalled, disgusted, heartsick, and completely overwhelmed… The depth of that pain is something that I still have not come to terms with.” Even years after the article was published, Taus describes disregard from professors who supported Loftus’ efforts to breach Taus’ privacy. Taus states that Loftus “has painted herself as someone who was attacked by me. I know in my heart that this is not the case and would like to set the record straight by stating that I did not initiate this situation, and the motivation behind each of my actions has been the defense of my own emotional well-being.

A Review and Correction of the Errors in Loftus and Guyer on Jane Doe. (Erna Olafson)
Impact: Olafson analyzes the article published by Loftus and Guyer, and corrects four key errors in the article concerning Taus. These include: incorrectly describing the circumstances leading to Taus viewing the tapes, overstating the original study’s conclusions about recovered memory, and misrepresenting Corwin as unwilling to communicate with Loftus. Other minor inaccuracies in the article are addressed.

First Do No Harm: Is It Any Longer Safe to Write Case Reports? (Laura S. Brown)
Impact: Brown describes her own experience writing case studies, and asks the question: “If the pattern of misrepresentation, violation of privacy, and invasion of personal boundaries that were perpetrated on Nicole Taus can pass without professional penalty to Loftus, then who is to stop any researcher from reading a case study and beginning the sort of hunt into the life of the client that Loftus conducted into Taus’s life?” Brown argues that Loftus’ actions “go beyond the question of the ethics” and affect the “entire area of scholarship in the field of psychotherapy,” as the “the potential for violation, and thus possibly re-traumatization, of the client” would make it unsafe to write case studies. Brown calls for the development of a clear code of ethics for researchers responding to case material.

Research Ethics and Private Harms. (Gerald P. Koocher)
Impact: Koocher reviews the ethical guidelines for psychologists put forth by the APA in relation to Taus’ case. He concludes that the ethical guidelines would deem Loftus’ actions unethical if she was subject to the APA’s jurisdiction. Secondly, Koocher discusses Loftus’ unusual and urgent resignation from the APA before two ethics complaints could be brought against her.

Jane Doe: A Cautionary Tale for Case Reports. (Frank W. Putnam)
Impact: Putnam reviews the Taus case as a pair of point−counterpoint case studies and its implications for future case reports, especially for case studies that involve controversial topics. He calls for a process “that can provide a reasonable (albeit never perfect) degree of protection of privacy, while still permitting legitimate outside scientific review.” Putnam proposes that case study authors would be required to keep critical material related to the case study; if significant concerns are raised, the editor could determine whether to submit these materials to a professionally qualified outside review that is “required to maintain confidentiality and to protect subject privacy.”

Research Ethics and Case Studies in Psychology (Ross E. Cheit)
Abstract Excerpt: “Loftus and Guyer have offered three defenses for their actions. All three of those defenses lack merit. Their investigation did not constitute oral history because it failed to comport with the basic requirements of that practice. Their investigation did not constitute ethical journalism because of the unjustified use of anonymous sources and the clear violation of basic fairness. Their investigation did not constitute justified medical research because of a failure to analyze or weigh the harms against the benefits. Their methods
also violated ethical principles for psychologists… This case demonstrates that there is no ethical way to investigate a clinical case, without the patient’s approval.” “By all appearances, Loftus’ effort was closer to advocacy work for the defense.”

Protecting Scientists, Science, and Case Protagonists (Constance J. Dalenberg)
Impact: Dalenberg summarizes the previous articles and the stance of Loftus and Guyer, who declined to write an article for the series. She specifically emphasizes the potential next steps proposed by the authors that could be taken to protect the privacy and confidentiality of case study participants, while still allowing independent review.

A detailed overview of the Taus v. Loftus case can be read on the Leadership Council’s website, including amicus briefs, court decisions, press releases, and news articles.

Recently, Nicole Kluemper (formerly Taus) published a memoir, which includes her experience as Corwin’s case study subject and the resulting breach of privacy by Loftus. It is titled “See Jane Fly,” – more detail can be found on Klumper’s website.

Lost In the Mall - False Memory Research:
Elizabeth Loftus started her research career in eyewitness testimony, publishing studies that found memories can become clouded by post-event information. Later in her career, Loftus shifted to focusing on recovered memories. Elizabeth Loftus is the author of the well-known “Lost in the Mall” study, formerly titled “The Formation of False Memories.” Loftus claims that this study provides “an existence proof for the formation of false memories.” [16] This research is frequently used in court by Loftus to defend those accused of abuse, claiming those who raise accusations of sexual abuse could be suffering from false memories.

In an analysis of the study titled “Lost in the Mall: False Memory or False Defense,” Blizzard and Shaw conclude that the study “has received a minimal amount of critical analysis, regardless of the vague and contradictory reporting of results, failure to report negative results, lack of definition of false memory, and conflation of informal observations with formal research.” [17] The results are inapplicable to traumatic, repeated, [17] enduring, [18] therapist suggested, [17] or non-familial suggested memories, [18] and Loftus has stated in a deposition that they do not apply to the general population beyond the 24 study participants. [19] Finally, the study is inadmissible in the court of law as scientific evidence under either Frye or Daubert standards. [20]

Read a full analysis of the study’s thrown out data, inaccurate conclusions, broad inapplicability, and inadmissibility in court on the “Lost in the Mall” topic page.

Disbelief in Recovered Memories - until her own research shows that they exist.
Elizabeth Loftus is “skeptical of ‘recovered memories’ of abuse because, as she writes in her book, she was “secretly molested by a male baby-sitter when she was 6 and has never forgotten.” [21] This viewpoint runs throughout her scientific research, her appearances in court as an expert witness, her organizational affiliations with the FMSF and the NCRJ, and her 1994 book The Myth of Repressed Memory.

However, Loftus herself has admitted that based on a study by Linda Meyer Williams on women with documented histories of sexual abuse, “extreme claims such as "if you were raped, you'd remember" are disproven.” [22]

Loftus’ own research has demonstrated that one in five women with histories of childhood sexual abuse reported a period of forgetting, in which they later recalled memories of the abuse. This study is rarely mentioned by Loftus. She spends most of the paper attacking the concept of repression, while later using repression to explain her subject’s memories:
“Suppose instead we define repression more conservatively. . . . Just under one fifth of the women reported that they forgot the abuse for a period of time and later regained the memory. One could argue that this means that robust repression was not especially prevalent in our sample” (p.80). [23]
Jim Hopper analyzes this paper by Loftus on his website. Notably, he points out that Loftus uses principles of memory derived from non traumatic memory research. She describes unclear memories as deteriorated, when the concept of dissociation – derived from traumatic memory research – would better fit the memory quality that Loftus describes her subjects as experiencing. [24]

Hopper concludes by stating that “Loftus has conducted and published research which calls into question her public statements on recovered memories; her own study demonstrated that the conditions of amnesia and delayed recall for sexual abuse do exist.” [24]


[1] Freyd, Pamela. (2004, May/June). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 13(3), 1-2.
[2] Tamia Sheldon v. Leif Hatlen. (1999). Deposition of Elizabeth Loftus. Superior Court of Alaska, Third Judicial District at Anchorage. Case No. 3AN-98-5153 Civil
[3] Herald v. Hood. (Summit County, Ohio, jury verdict, 1992; affirmed 1995).
[4] Loftus, Elizabeth. (1996, January 16). “Resignation Letter.” Personal Correspondence to APA Membership Office.
[5] Hoffman, David. (2015). Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent Review Relating to the APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture. Sidley Austin. Retrieved from:
[6] Turner v. Honker. (1996, July 10). Testimony of Elizabeth Loftus, p. 109
[7] Seignious v. Fair. (1998, January 22). Testimony of Elizabeth Loftus, p. 151.
[8] Liano v. Diocese of Phoenix. (2006, December 21). Testimony of Elizabeth Loftus, p. 68
[9] Hoult, Jennifer. (2005 & 2014). "Remembering Dangerously" & Hoult v. Hoult: The Myth of Repressed Memory that Elizabeth Loftus Created. Consider the Evidence for Elizabeth Loftus' Scholarship and Accuracy.
[10] Lynn, Crook. (1995). Ethics Complaint Against Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. Unpublished Correspondence.
[11] Landsberg, Michele. (1996, February 11). Beware of false prophets peddling false-memory hype. Toronto Star. A2.
[12] Putnam, Frank. (2014). Jane Doe: A Cautionary Tale for Case Reports. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(18), 3277–3289.
[13] Kluemper, N. S. (2014). Published Case Reports: One Woman’s Account of Having Her Confidentiality Violated. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(18), 3232–3244.
[14] Cheit, Ross. (2014). Research Ethics and Case Studies in Psychology: A Commentary on Taus v. Loftus. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(18), 3290–3307.
[15] Loftus, E. F., & Guyer, M. (2002a, May-June). Who abused Jane Doe? The hazards of the single case history part 1. Skeptical Inquirer, 26(3), 24-32.
[16] Loftus, Elizabeth, & Pickrell, Jacqueline. (1995). The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals, 25(12), 720–725.
[17] Blizard, Ruth, & Shaw, Morgan. (2019). Lost-in-the-mall: False memory or false defense? Journal of Child Custody, 1–22. doi:10.1080/15379418.2019.1590285
[18] Brewin, Chris, & Andrews, Bernice. (2017). Creating memories for false autobiographical events in childhood: A systematic review. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31(1), 2–23.
[19] Crook, Lynn, & McEwen, Linda. (2019). Deconstructing the lost in the mall study. Journal of Child Custody, 16(1), 7–19. doi:10.1080/15379418.2019.1601603
[20] Murphy, Wendy, & Mitchell, Megan, & Sardina, Alexa. (n.d.) JD/PHD Project: Critiques: “Lost in the Mall,” by Loftus, et al. Wendy Murphy Law. Published online. Retrieved From:
[21] Butler, Katy. (2005, February 5). Did Daddy Really Do It? Los Angeles Times.
[22] Loftus, E. F., Garry, M., & Feldman, J. (1994). Forgetting sexual trauma: What does it mean when 38% forget? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62(6), 1177–1181.
[23] Loftus, E.F., Polonsky, S., & Fullilove, M. T. (1994). Memories of childhood sexual abuse: Remembering and repressing. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 67-84.
[24] Hopper, Jim. (2023). Scientific Research: Elizabeth Loftus. Jim Hopper, Ph.D. Retrieved from:

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