Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 285–293

Guidelines for empirically assessing the fairness of a lineup

  • Gary L. Wells
  • Michael R. Leippe
  • Thomas M. Ostrom

DOI: 10.1007/BF01039807

Cite this article as:
Wells, G.L., Leippe, M.R. & Ostrom, T.M. Law Hum Behav (1979) 3: 285. doi:10.1007/BF01039807


Issues regarding the fairness of lineups used for criminal identification are discussed in the context of a distinction between nominal size and functional size. Nominal size (the number of persons in the lineup) is less important for determining the fairness of a lineup than is functional size (the number of lineup members resembling the criminal). Functional size decreases to the extent that the nonsuspect members of the lineup are easily ruled out as not being suspected by the police. The extent to which the identification of the suspect can be considered an independently derived piece of incriminating evidence is positively related to functional size. Empirical estimates of functional size can be obtained through pictures of the corporal lineup from which mock witnesses make guesses of whom they believe the police suspect. A distinction is made between a functional size approach and hypothesis testing approaches. Uses of functional size notions in the court, by police, and in research are discussed.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary L. Wells
    • 1
  • Michael R. Leippe
    • 2
  • Thomas M. Ostrom
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySt. Norbert CollegeWisconsinUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyOhio State UniversityUSA

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