Bette L. Bottoms, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs and
Dean of the Honors College
For an appointment, please contact Ms. Christina Ruiz, Assistant to the Vice Provost and Dean, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 996-5153.
Psychology Department Office: 1046D BSB
Phone: (312) 996-5153
1007 W. Harrison St. (MC 285)
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
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Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo
M.A., University of Denver
B.A., Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg
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Psychology and Law: Children's Eyewitness Testimony, Jury Decision Making, Child Abuse and Neglect
The issues I study lie at the interface of psychology and law. Much of the motivation for my research stems from my concern for justice and the welfare of children, yet my research is driven by a desire to test basic psychological theories. I have developed three related lines of research.
In most of my current research, my students and I investigate case, victim, defendant, and juror characteristics that influence jurors' decisions in cases in which children are victims and in cases in which children are offenders. For example, I have investigated the influences of victim and perceiver race on case decisions, finding that all other things equal, jurors are biased against both victims and defendants who are from stereotyped groups (e.g., minority race, gay sexual orientation). I have also found juror gender to be a significant predictor of jurors' verdicts, with women rendering more pro-victim/pro-prosecution judgments than men in child sexual abuse cases. I have identified and measured psychological constructs underlying gender differences (empathy for child victims, attitudes toward children and child sexual abuse), and extended this research by investigating the influence of gender during and after jury deliberations. Most recently I have also focused on understanding jurors' perceptions of juvenile defendants who are tried as adults in criminal court. My students and I have discovered that jurors’ perceptions are influenced by factors such as juvenile race and intellectual disability, jurors’ stereotypes of juvenile delinquents, and attorneys' attempts to make jurors empathize with juveniles. We have also conducted research to understand public opinion about the extention of sexual offender registry laws – laws that require adult sex offenders to register their identity and addresses publicly – to juvenile sex offenders.
In a second line of research, I have studied how children's memory and suggestibility are affected by social and emotional factors (e.g., stress, motivation to conceal information, prior victimization). For example, in several, I have found that interviewer-provided social support increases children's resistance to misleading questions about past events. My students and I conduct research to determine the psychological mechanisms underlying this effect and the conditions under which the effect will replicate. Such research can lead to the development of techniques for improving children's reports.
In my third line of research, I have investigated interesting psychological issues that arise when reports of past child abuse come not from children, but from adults. Are adults' memories of childhood abuse subject to repression or distortion through suggestion? I have examined this topic in the context of national survey research exploring the incidence, characteristics, and validity of abuse claims involving mainstream and fringe religious beliefs, and claims that arise as recovered, formerly repressed memories. I am particularly interested in identifying socio-cultural and psychological factors that could lead some individuals to believe in a history of abuse that may never have occurred. These claims could distract from real abuse allegations, of which our society has so many.
Bette L. Bottoms is Professor of Psychology, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs, and Dean of the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She received her B.A. from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia, her M.A. from the University of Denver, and her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her research on the accuracy of children's eyewitness testimony, techniques to improve children's reports of past events, and jurors' perceptions of children's testimony has been funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Mental Health. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and the co-editor of five books on children's eyewitness testimony, including Children as Victims, Witnesses, and Offenders: Psychological Science and the Law (Guilford); Children, Social Science, and the Law (Cambridge); Ending Child Abuse: New Efforts in Prevention, Investigation and Treatment (Haworth); International Perspectives on Child Abuse and Children's Testimony: Psychological Research and Law (Sage); and Child Victims, Child Witnesses: Understanding and Improving Testimony (Guilford).
Professor Bottoms is a recipient of the Saleem Shah Early Career Award for Contributions to Psychology and Law Research (sponsored by the American Psychology-Law Society and the American Academy of Forensic Psychology) and eight teaching and mentoring awards (the APA Division 2 Society for Teaching of Psychology Robert Daniel Award, American Psychology-Law Society Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring, Amoco Silver Circle Teaching Award, UIC Honors College Fellow of the Year Award, UIC Teaching Recognition Program Award -- twice, UIC Excellence in Teaching Award, and UIC Flame Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence). She also received the Today's Chicago Woman Foundation’s Rising Star Award for career and community contributions. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and Past President of the American Psychological Association's Division 37 (Child, Youth, and Family Services) and of Division 37's Section on Child Maltreatment.
In addition to her scholarly work and teaching, Professor Bottoms has been active in service and administration at UIC. She has served on major university committees such as the 2010 Strategic Thinking Committee and the Promotion and Tenure Committee. In the Department of Psychology, she served as Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies. In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she served as Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Associate Dean for Legal Studies. She is currently Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs and Dean of the Honors College, providing leadership to the Honors College, the Office of Classroom Learning Environments, the Study Abroad Office, the Office of Special Scholarships and Programs, the African American Cultural Center, Asian American Resources and Cultural Center, Gender and Sexuality Center, Latino Cultural Center, and the Office of Women's Affairs.