Loftus to Receive 8th Honorary Doctorate


Elizabeth Loftus. Photo by Patricia DeVoe

Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Loftus recognized by Australian National University

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Elizabeth F. Loftus, distinguished professor of psychological science and criminology, law and society, will be awarded her eighth honorary doctorate. On the grounds of her exceptional contribution to psychological science, pioneering applications to the administration of justice and her unwavering pursuit of scientific freedom, Australian National University will bestow the Doctor of Science Honoris Causa during its commencement ceremony next fall.

Her seven other honorary doctorates:

  • Doctor of Social Sciences Honoris Causa from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2015
  • Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Oslo, Norway, 2008
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa, University of Haifa, Israel, 2005
  • Doctor of Science, University of Portsmouth, England, 1998
  • Doctor of Laws, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, 1994
  • Doctorate Honoris Causa, Leiden University, The Netherlands, 1990
  • Doctor of Science, Miami University (Ohio), 1982

Her eighth honorary doctorate comes on the heels of another Australian National University award — the Lifetime Achievement Award for Psychology — given to her earlier this year.

“It is a tremendous honor to realize that the memory research to which I've devoted my life is recognized so far away,” Loftus said. “Particularly special for me is that I will be able to visit a former student, Eryn Newman, who is now a new professor at Australian National University.”

Loftus, who also has faculty appointments with UCI’s School of Law and in the Department of Cognitive Sciences, and is a fellow of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, was the founding director of the Center for Psychology and Law.  

She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics and psychology from UCLA, and her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. Her book, “Eyewitness Testimony,” won a National Media Award (Distinguished Contribution) from the American Psychological Foundation. 

Her other honors and awards are numerous. The following is a partial list:

  • In 2015, Cornell University gave her its Lifetime Achievement in Human Development, Law & Psychology Award “in recognition of a distinguished career of pioneering contributions in legal applications of psychological research.”
  • In 2013, she received the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science from the American Psychological Foundation for “extraordinary contributions to our understanding of memory during the past 40 years that are remarkable for their creativity and impact.” 
  • In 2012, she received the University of California, Irvine Medal for “exceptional contributions to the vision, mission, and spirit of UC Irvine.”
  • In 2010, she received the Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists for “significant contributions to the understanding of the phenomenology of human memory, especially its fragility and vulnerability to distortion.” She also received the 2010 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “the profound impact that her pioneering research on human memory has had on the administration of justice in the United States and abroad.”
  • In 2006, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, established in 1745 by Benjamin Franklin.
  • In 2005, she won the $200,000 Grawemeyer Prize in Psychology to honor ideas of “great significance and impact.”
  • In 2002, a study published by the Review of General Psychology identified the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, and Loftus was No. 58, the highest ranking woman on the list. Topping the list were famed psychologists Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, and Jean Piaget.
  • In 2001, she won the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science in 2001 for “ingeniously and rigorously designed research studies…that yielded clear objective evidence on difficult and controversial questions.”

Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of court cases, including the noted McMartin preschool molestation case, the Hillside strangler and Abscam cases, the trial of Oliver North, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby and the Duke University lacrosse players.