Beth Loftus gives expert testimony in Jerry Sandusky case

May 2017

Beth Loftus, distinguished professor of social ecology, gave expert testimony at the latest Jerry Sandusky appeals hearing, saying by phone that that there is no credible scientific support for a theory that someone can wall off a “horrific brutalization” and then recall it later because of counseling and therapy.

One of victims in the former Penn State assistant football coach's child sexual abuse case said his statements evolved from when he first testified five years ago -- a change he says resulted, in part, because of counseling and therapy.

Wealth affects driving and other behaviors, research says

May 2017

Gaining wealth seems to have a damaging effect on a person's character, according to research done by Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior. Plus, they're worse drivers.

Wealthy people, Piff told, are less willing to take up the perspective of another person and less concerned about another’s well-being, and they tend to equate being better off with being better than others. Money makes people feel more deserving of success, he adds, and less needful of others. Piff is conducting a study of 50,000 adults to see how wealth influences social behavior.

Perception of a moral partisan divide driven by partisan media

May 2017

Partisan factionalism has grown more severe recently, with Republicans and Democrats increasingly huddling in exclusive camps. Compared to decades past, people are more likely to be displeased if their children marry someone from the other party, and more likely to see members of the other party as selfish.

That animosity lingers. It's not like in sports, where the importance of team preferences goes away when the subject changes, Peter Ditto, professor of psychology and social behavior, told the Orange County Register. "In politics, people see it as a moral difference,” Ditto said. "And it’s fed by the media, and by people surrounding themselves with others who think the same way."

Social media makes collaborative investigations possible

May 2017

Self-described internet investigators can collaborate far easier in the age of social media, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus Dan Stokols told the Baltimore Sun.

Internet sleuths uncovered information about a Maryland couple who posted videos of their children to their YouTube channel "DaddyOFive." Some people found the behavior in the videos abusive and sought to implement justice on their own.

Capital punishment juries in question in O.C.

April 2017

Juries could increasingly favor the death penalty, despite declining public support, Social Ecology professor finds.

When the case of Scott Dekraai – who pled guilty to murdering eight people in a Seal Beach salon in 2011 – goes to the sentencing phase of the trial, more than one-third of potential jurors could be rejected based on their beliefs about the death penalty.

The consequence? A jury that could be tilted in favor of capital punishment, even as national polls show that fewer and fewer people support it, according to a recent paper published in the Yale Law Journal by Nicholas Scurich, an associate professor in the School of Social Ecology.

Sleep deprivation: one reason people give false confessions

April 2017

Innocent people frequently confess to crimes they never committed, and false confessions are, in fact, responsible for 25 percent of exonerations resulting from DNA evidence, according to an essay in Time featuring Psychology and Social Behavior Professor Beth Loftus.

A false confession often starts with police officers presuming guilt, then seeking to detect signs in the suspect's demeanor and voice. Then, they coerce the subject, sometimes with lies about evidence against the suspect. Finally, the police prompt a detailed confession by asking leading questions or showing the suspect crime scene photos.