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No Congratulations Here

January 22nd, 2017

The following letter was just published in the February 2017 issue of The Psychologist, a publication of the British Psychological Society. The author is Dr. Ashley Conway:

Your short report in the January edition congratulates Elizabeth Loftus on winning the John Maddox Prize, and comments on her facing hostility and attempts to undermine her professional status, without explaining why some fellow psychologists might not be happy about everything that she has done. It might be helpful to have some insight into this reaction. In an extraordinary editorial, Brand and McEwen (2016) inform us that, according to American Psychological Association officials, Loftus was tipped off by them that there was an ethics complaint against her pending, and she left the Association. So no ethics investigation took place. It is reported that, under oath in court, Loftus has repeatedly denied awareness of this sequence of events (Cheit, 2015).

Olafson (2014) and Kluemper (2014) address a separate issue – Loftus allegedly violating the privacy of the subject of a case history, who was promised anonymity, and being untruthful in representing herself to the foster mother of the abuse victim. Discussing two particular papers co-written by Loftus, Olafson (2014) states: ‘There are so many errors among those facts that can be checked…that they cast doubt on the accuracy of the alleged facts in these articles that cannot be easily checked.’ And Dalenberg (2014) makes it clear that Loftus’s actions in this case have now made it ethically problematic for any psychology journal to publish case histories.

There has been a lot in the national and international news relating to disclosures of non-recent abuse, and the publication by the Society of excellent guidelines for clinicians in dealing with this difficult area. Hopefully an insightful view might help bring peace to what have been called ‘the memory wars’ and will help get real justice, both for victims of abuse, and those who may be falsely accused.

Ashley Conway

London W1

References

Brand, B. & McEwen, L. (2016). Ethical standards, truths and lies. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 17, 259–266.

Cheit, R. (2015). Elizabeth Loftus and the Hoffman Report [Blog post]. Recovered Memory Project.

Dalenberg, C.J. (2014). Protecting scientists, science, and case protagonists: A discussion of the Taus v. Loftus commentaries. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29, 3308–3319.

Kluemper, N.S. (2014). Published case reports: One woman’s account of having her confidentiality violated. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29, 3232–3234.

Olafson, E. (2014). A review and correction of the errors in Loftus and Gruyer on Jane Doe. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29, 3245–3259.

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