The Catholic University of America


Martin A. Safer

Ordinary Professor, Emeritus


301 O'Boyle Hall (202) 319-5754





My current research investigates situational and personality factors that affect how individuals remember past feelings of emotion, such as how widows and widowers remember past grief, how terminating psychotherapy clients remember pre-therapy distress, and how students remember pre-exam anxiety. I am also interested in factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. The papers below represent each of these research interests.


Ph.D., Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978

M.S., Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1974.

B.S., Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1968.

Selected Recent Publications

 Memory for Emotions

My studies investigate how individuals recall prior levels of emotions. A unique feature of some of these studies is that they are field experiments, where conditions of recall are varied. Also, we have examined individual differences in recall. Below are some recent papers.

Safer, M. A., Bonanno, G. A., & Field, N. P. (2001). "It was never that bad": Biased recall of grief and long-term adjustment to the death of a spouse. Memory, 9, 195-204.


Safer, M. A., & Keuler, D. J. (2002). Individual differences in misremembering pre-psychotherapy distress: Personality and memory distortion. Emotion, 2, 162 – 178.

Safer, M. A., Levine, L. J., & Drapalski, A. (2002). Distortion in memory for emotions: The contributions of personality and post-event knowledge. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1495 – 1507.

Levine, L.J., Safer, M. A., & Lench, H. C. (2006). Remembering and Misremembering Emotions. In L. J. Sanna and E. C. Chang (Eds.). Judgments over time: The interplay of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. New York: Oxford University Press.

Klimes-Dougan, B., Safer, M. A., Ronsaville, D., Tinsley, R., & Harris, S. J. (2007). The value of forgetting suicidal thoughts and behavior. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 37, 431 – 438.

Safer, M. A., Breslin, C. W., Boesch, R. P., & Cerqueira, R. (2007). Long-term memory for the emotional gist and emotional essence of an experience. Memory, 15, 861-872.

Levine, L. J., Lench, H. C., & Safer, M. A. (2009). Functions of remembering and misremembering emotion. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1059 - 1075.

Eyewitness Memory

Eyewitness memory is one of the most widely researched topics in applied memory research. My current research is to investigate what other relevant groups (attorneys, police, jurors, judges in other legal systems) know about factors affecting eyewitness accuracy, with the long range goal of developing educational programs for teaching about eyewitness factors.

Wise, R. A., & Safer, M. A. (2004). What U.S. judges know and believe about eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 427 – 443.

Wise, R. A., Dauphinais, K., & Safer, M. A. (2007). A tripartite solution to eyewitness error. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 97, 807 – 871.

Wise, R. A., Pawlenko, N. B., Meyer, D., & Safer, M. A. (2007). A survey of defense attorneys’ knowledge and beliefs about eyewitness testimony. The Champion, 31(9), 18 – 27, 33.

Magnussen, S., Wise, R. A., Raja, A. Q., Safer, M. A., Pawlenko, N., & Stridbeck, U. (2008). What judges know about eyewitness testimony: A comparison of Norwegian and US judges. Psychology, Crime, & Law, 14, 177-188.

Wise, R. A., Pawlenko, N. B., Safer, M. A., & Meyer, D. (2009). What US prosecutors and defence attorneys know and believe about eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1266 – 1281.

Wise, R. A., Fishman, C. S., & Safer, M. A. (2009). How to analyze the accuracy of eyewitness testimony in a criminal case. Connecticut Law Review, 42, 435 – 513.

Wise, R. A., Gong, X-L., Safer, M. A., Lee, Y-T. (in press). A comparison of Chinese and U.S. Judges’ knowledge and beliefs about eyewitness testimony. Psychology, Crime, and Law.

Wise, R. A., & Safer, M. A. (2010). A comparison of what U.S. judges and students know and believe about eyewitness testimony. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1400-1422.

Wise, R. A., Safer, M. A., Maro, C. M. (in press). What U.S. Law Enforcement Officers Know and Believe About Eyewitness Factors, Eyewitness Interviews, and Identification Procedures. Applied Cognitive Psychology.


Courses Taught


  • Statistics
  • Emotions
  • Memory

Supervises the research of masters and doctoral students in Applied-Experimental and Clinical



  • Social Psychology
  • Positive Psychology