Goodman, Gail


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I mainly study children's eyewitness memory, especially in relation to allegations of child maltreatment. Many of us in this field of research feel that there is no greater privilege than contributing to science and, at the same time, contributing to children's welfare. I ask questions such as: What are the effects of trauma on children's minds? How accurate are children about their own autobiographies? How malleable is their memory? Can the legal system better accommodate child victims' needs and abilities? How can we help the courts get to the truth when a child takes the stand? My doctoral training at UCLA was in cognitive and memory development. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Denver, I audited several classes offered at the Law School. There I realized that children's eyewitness memory could be a topic of scientific research. When I first started to write and conduct research on child witnesses, most people in academic psychology thought it was unimportant. However, my first article on the topic won an award from the American Bar Association. I then edited and wrote much of a special issue of the Journal of Social Issues devoted to child witnesses. Shortly thereafter, a number of sensational child sexual abuse cases propelled the study of child witnesses into the national and international limelight. My laboratory was the first in the United States to be devoted to the scientific study of children's eyewitness memory, and I received the first federal grant on this topic. Now this area of research has attracted some of the best minds in developmental psychology and is a major area of concern within the field of memory development. I am currently Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Social Sciences and Law at the University of California, Davis. I have an active laboratory filled with wonderful, devoted, and hard-working graduate and undergraduate students. My research and writings have won many awards, and I have served as President of two Divisions (American Psychology-Law Society; Child, Youth and Family Services) and of one Section (Section on Child Maltreatment) of the American Psychological Association. But my two favourite accomplishments were when the US Supreme Court cited my work in deciding that defendants' 6th Amendment rights would have to bend to the needs of traumatized children, and when I received the Teaching and Mentoring Award from the American Psychology-Law Society. Both of these awards meant that my efforts helped others, and that has always been my overriding goal. What determined my interests? My father, who revered science, was educated as an attorney. My mother , who grew up in an orphanage, knew all too well the meaning of child trauma. After graduating from UCLA, she became a teacher and child advocate. Given this familial history, perhaps my research and teaching interests come as no surprise. I would like to offer some advice to students reading this biography: Find what truly interests you – your intellectual passion – and then never give up in pursuing it! There are many routes to professional success, and if some roads are blocked, find the road that works for you. Written by: Gail Goodman