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Geoffrey Loftus

Wrongful Convictions Series presents Nov. 1 lecture by psychologist who has research on shortcomings of memory and perception

Posted: 10/24/2012
Geoffrey Loftus, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and a leading expert in visual perception and memory, will talk about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 as the second annual Wrongful Convictions Distinguished Speaker Series continues at Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Internationally recognized for his work in human cognition, Loftus will explain why it is difficult to identify faces, even those of well-known celebrities, from distances exceeding 150 feet during a lecture entitled “Why should juries be told about human perception and memory?”

The recipient of numerous research grants and fellowships, Loftus has written extensively on human memory and perception and also has testified as an expert in hundreds of civil and criminal court cases where eyewitness testimony and distance in making an identification are an issue.

His research has played a role in numerous eyewitness cases, including a recent case in which the Innocence Project in New York City is seeking a new trial for Darrell Edwards. His conviction in the 1995 murder of a New Jersey deli owner was based largely on the eyewitness account of a woman who identified Edwards from more than 270 feet away throwing out a gun and hooded sweatshirt that were used in the crime.

Through a variety of experiments, including use of well-known celebrities seen from varying distances, the study co-authored by Loftus shows that the human visual system becomes less able to perceive and encode facial details as a face moves further and further away. In fact, Loftus found that face perception begins to diminish after about 25 feet and that accurate face identification for people with normal vision drops to zero at around 150 feet. Additionally, the study concluded that familiarity with a face or person has no impact on a person’s ability to make an identification when such distance is involved.
“Dr. Loftus is known both nationally and internationally as an expert in human memory and perception,” said Roosevelt University psychology professor Shari Berkowitz. “He has lectured all around the world on his fascinating research and experiences in legal cases, and we are thrilled to have him speak and demonstrate the limits that our memory and vision have in making an identification.”

Sponsored by Roosevelt University’s Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project and the Department of Psychology, the lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Bethany Barratt at or Shari Berkowitz at