Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus explores the myths of memory

January 2017

Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior and Criminology, Law and Society, is featured in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald for her research on memory, and the development of false memories. During her lecture at the University of Sydney in Australia, Professor Loftus identified numerous ways in which false memories can be created.

Violent crime in LA rises for third straight year

January 2017

Charis Kubrin, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, is interviewed by 89.3 KPCC's Take Two regarding the recent statistics reported by the Los Angeles Police Department, indicating occurrences of violent crime in Los Angeles have increased for the third consecutive year. During the interview, she goes into detail as to the meaning and significance of these statistics.

The L.A. public defender’s office decided it needed a scientist.

December 2016

UCI alumna Erin Morris, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology & social behavior in 2006, is the subject of UCI associate professor of literary journalism Erika Hayasaki’s story “The Investigator,” published in the Dec. 1 issue of The California Sunday Magazine. The Los Angeles County public defender’s office created the position of behavioral sciences research analyst for Morris in 2007. It’s her job to keep on top of the latest academic literature on forensic evidence and determine which studies and theories are valid. She then confers with the attorneys on how to best pursue or challenge a line of inquiry based on what is “scientifically defensible” about the evidence. The use of forensic evidence in the criminal justice system is undergoing a radical shift. What was once considered to be incontrovertible evidence – such as bite marks, eyewitness accounts, expert testimony and even fingerprints – has come under intense scrutiny and has, many times, proved faulty. According to the Innocence Project, more than 340 defendants since 1989 who were convicted on the basis of flawed forensic evidence were later exonerated through DNA analysis, and in September, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology released a report questioning many of the methods used by law enforcement and prosecutors. This is where Morris comes in and why her role is so crucial. She estimates that she has consulted on more than 200 cases, including one that relied on work she had done while at UCI, where she studied under Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of psychology & social behavior and professor of law, and William Thompson, professor of criminology, law & society. The defendant, charged with assaulting a group of high schoolers, had been identified by one of them as the attacker. Drawing on the latest research on eyewitness testimony, Morris advised the public defender of its many flaws – that head injuries often affect memory and how easy it is to confuse people wearing similar clothing. The jury acquitted him.

A matter of life or death

December 2016

What drives decisions by autonomous vehicles in dire situations?

Despite dramatic reductions in accident-related fatalities, injuries and damages, as well as significant improvements in transportation efficiency and safety, consumers aren’t as excited about the promise of autonomous vehicles as the auto industry is. Research shows that people are nervous about life-and-death driving decisions being made by algorithms rather than by humans. Who determines the ethics of the algorithms?

Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said recently that these ethics must be derived from “deep and meaningful conversations” among the public, the auto industry, the government, universities and ethicists.

Azim Shariff, Assistant Professor of Psychology & Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues­ – Iyad Rahwan, Associate Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., and Jean-Francois Bonnefon, a Research Director at the Toulouse School of Economics in France – have created an online survey platform called the Moral Machine to help promote that discussion.

Launched in May, it has already drawn more than 2.5 million participants from over 160 countries.