Elizabeth Loftus and Repressed Memories

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  • Topic: Psychology, Amnesia, Repressed memory
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Elizabeth F. Loftus: The Reality of Repressed Memories
Alyssa Ellis Killebrew

Elizabeth Loftus Brief Biography
Childhood & Personal Recollections
Elizabeth (fondly known as Beth) Fishman Loftus' parents met and married while stationed at Fort Ord, during World War II. Sidney Fishman, Elizabeth’s father, was an Army doctor and her mother, Rebecca was an army base librarian. Beth was the oldest of three children. In 1944, Elizabeth Fishman was born and then her two brothers followed. After the war, Dr. Fishman opened a general practice in Santa Monica, Calif. (Boss, 1994). Elizabeth described two personal and traumatic events during her youth that impacted her greatly, in an interview with Neimark (1996). She reported that when she was 6, a baby-sitter molested her, and then when she was 14 years old her uncle found her mother dead in a swimming pool, (Neimark, 1996). Because “her mother had earlier been sent away for treatment for depression”, Neimark (1996) wrote, “There is still family speculation about whether her mother’s death was a suicide, and family questions about how her father’s emotional coldness could have contributed to it”. In the interview by Neimark (1996), Elizabeth indicated that her father believed it was suicide even though her mother’s death was listed as accidental (Neimark, 1996). According to Boss (1994), Elizabeth said, “I do remember, when my mother died, deciding there was no God” (Boss, 1994). The tragic death of her mother and molestation as a child may have helped to shape her career as a psychologist.

Her father remarried two years after her mother’s death, to a woman who also had three children (Boss, 1994). In her interview, Neimark (1996) reported that Elizabeth described her stepmother as being “nicer to her own kids (Neimark, 1996)”. Beth also said that she “really had to fight and claw to get attention of any sort (Neimark, 1996)”. Before college, she had plans to be a high-school math teacher, ‘because math was the one thing my father and I could talk about’(Neimark, 1996). But despite her efforts, the relationship with her father remained distant, a chasm made deeper by the subsequent entrance of her reportedly neglectful step-mother. Despite the death of her mother, and an emotionally cold father, Loftus is close to her two brothers. She got along with them “extremely well and the three of the Fishman children had and still have a very tight bond because it was them against the world of the cold, distant father, the evil stepmother and stepsiblings”(Neimark, 1996).

Elizabeth obtained a bachelor of mathematics and psychology from the University of California in Los Angeles, California in 1966. While in graduate school at Stanford, Loftus developed an interest in long-term memory research while obtaining a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Psychology (Neimark, 1996). Additionally, she has received 6 honorary doctorates for her research on human memory. While at Stanford, Elizabeth met Geoffrey Loftus, a psychologist, and was married in 1968. . The couple tried was but were unable to have children. Loftus freely admits that it was her love of work that broke up her marriage in 1991. Her husband disapproved of her over-involvement with work. Her husband’s idea of marriage was to spend more leisure time together and Elizabeth genuinely couldn’t conform (Conkle, 2007).

Elizabeth was a Professor of Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington for approximately 30 years and her research over the last 20 years has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and courtroom procedure. She had appointments in the Department of Cognitive Sciences, and is a Fellow of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. She has published approximately 25 books, and over 450 scientific articles. One of her most widely read books; "The...
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