In a career spanning four decades, Loftus, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has done more than any other researcher to document the unreliability of memory in experimental settings. And she has used what she has learned to testify as an expert witness in hundreds of criminal cases — Pacely’s was her 101st — informing juries that memories are pliable and that eyewitness accounts are far from perfect recordings of actual events….
There are ways in which traumatic memories of real events can be recalled after being buried for years, he adds, but without hard evidence, it is impossible to distinguish false memories from real ones in court. It is, therefore, possible that some claims of childhood abuse go unvindicated because of Loftus’ testimony, and this is the cause of much of the hostility towards her.
Ross Cheit, a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, started the Recovered Memory Project in 1995 to document and respond to what he says has been a one-sided debate. There are now more than 100 corroborated cases of recovered memory on his website (http://blogs.brown.edu/recoveredmemory), he says, including some on which Loftus had consulted.