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Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial Paperback – July 15, 1992


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Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial + Eyewitness Testimony: With a new preface by the author + The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (July 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312084552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312084554
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Witness for the Defense is an important book." —The New York Times

"An intriguing and disturbing work in which forensic psychologist Loftus, a specialist on memory, examines the fallibility of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases . . . A fascinating examination of human memory, with troubling implications for the American criminal-justice system." —Kirkus Reviews

"Highly recommended for the general public and scholars interested in whether justice is served in the criminal justice system." Library Journal

About the Author

Elizabeth Loftus is a professor of psychology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington in Seattle. For more than 20 years, she has conducted extensive research in the areas of human memory, eyewitness testimony and courtroom procedure. Loftus has served as an expert witness and consultant in hundreds of cases, including the McMartin PreSchool Molestation case, the Hillside Strangler case, the Michael Jackson case, the trial of Oliver North, and the trial of the Menendez brothers and has also worked on numerous cases involving allegations of "repressed memories." She has published over 250 journal articles and 18 books, including Eyewitness Testimony, which won the American Psychological Association's National Media Award in 1980, and most recently, The Myth of Repressed Memory. In 1983, she was invited to present her work to the Royal Society of London. Loftus has served as president of the Western Psychological Association in 1984 and has fulfilled leadership roles in numerous other organizations such as the American Psychological Association, Society of Experimental Psychologists, American Psychological Society, and Psychonomic Society.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many people think that we store our past visual experiences as intact images in the brain. Research, however, shows that this concept is not accurate. The visual recollection of an event has to be recreated by assembling bits and pieces of memory into a whole picture. Our recollection of events is thus often distorted. A variety of psychological experiments have been conducted that demonstrate this phenomenon. Subjects shown a picture of an office later, when asked to recall the photograph, put items such as bookcases or a calendar in the scene that were not actually there. Other aspects of the office are forgotten.
Elizabeth Loftus, an internationally known expert on memory, applies research and her experience to the topic of eye witness testimony in the legal setting. The book attempts to be both entertaining in its often informal presentation of case histories, and modestly academic in presenting psychological theory and research. The case histories for the most part describe trials in which eyewitness testimony resulted in the conviction of an innocent person. Loftus shows how inaccurate recollections combined with inappropriate police photo and lineup presentations can cause a witness to create false recollections. As a side note the book also shows how fallible juries can be. All in all this book provides further proof that eyewitness testimony is not superior to circumstantial evidence.
My only criticism of this book should probably be directed toward the co-author. This book is oriented toward the general public, and the case descriptions are often fluffed to create the "true crime" approach used by writers in that genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth F. Loftus is an American psychologist and expert on human memory, and is currently a professor at UC Irvine. She has conducted extensive research on the misinformation effect and the nature of false memories (see her books, Memory and The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse).

Coauthor Katherine Ketcham stated in the "Author's Note" of this 1991 book, "[This] is a collection of true stories based on Dr. Elizabeth Loftus's personal experiences as an expert witness. It is our goal to use these real-life courtroom dramas as a vehicle for conveying information about psychology in general and memory in particular... Although we have struggled to correct obvious biases and base our accounts on the known and undisputed facts, it is unavoidable that these retrospective interpretations contain memory flaws. We know all too well from the psychological research and the experience of writing this book that memory is not always the same thing as the truth." (Pg. xiii-xiv)

Loftus notes, "In my studies, a subject's reported confidence for suggested or imagined memories is often as great as that reported for memories based on actual perceptions... subtle differences do exist between perceived and suggested memories, but ... most people are unable to detect these differences. In other words, when people remember something, they tend to believe it's the truth. And when they describe their memories, their reports can be so realistic and detailed that someone listening (like a juror) tends to think that the memory is, in fact, real." (Pg.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Loftus is an expert on memory, and here turns her attention to memory in criminal cases. Each chapter is a different example of memory and eyewitness testimony gone wrong in US legal cases where she served as an expert witness. Usually she focuses on the misidentification of innocent people as the perpetrators of crimes-including the controversial John Demjanjuk case.
She makes good points about the unreliability of memory under conditions of stress--like witnessing crimes. However, I have to disagree with her when she claims that there are objective ways of perceiving and remembering events untainted by emotion, etc. All perception and memory is tainted. We will just have to learn to deal with that in the court system.
Loftus does offer some good ways to avoid problems these problems--for instance procedures for line-ups and identification of perpetrators using pictures.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By P. H. Foley on March 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Selected Quotes from the Book:

..."our memory can be changed, inextricably altered, in that what we think we know,
what we believe in our hearts, is not necessarily the truth."

"It isn't so astonishing, the number of things that I can remember,
as the number of things I can remember that aren't so." Mark Twain

"When we remember we pull pieces of the past out of some mysterious region of the brain --jagged, jigsaw pieces that we sort and sift, arrange and rearrange until they fit into a pattern that makes sense. The finished project, the memory that seems so clear and focused in our minds, is actually part fact, part fiction, a warped and twisted reconstruction of reality."

Memory starts with the acquisition stage..., the retention stage..., and the retrieval stage...

"Contrary to popular belief, facts don't come into our memory and reside there untouched and unscathed by future events. Instead we pick up fragments and features from our environment and these go into memory where they interact with our prior knowledge and expectations --information that is already stored in our memory. ...think of memory as being an integrative process --a constructive and creative process --rather than a passive recording process such as a video tape."

"It wasn't that he didn't have doubts --no one can know anything for certain."

'Created Memories' "Simply by asking (leading) questions... In this situation, we can see the power of suggestion to induce a memory of something that never actually occurred.
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