Advertisement

Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 6–10 | Cite as

Field Experiments on Eyewitness Identification: Towards a Better Understanding of Pitfalls and Prospects

  • Gary L. Wells
Original Article

Abstract

The Illinois pilot program on lineup procedures has helped sharpen the focus on the types of controls that are needed in eyewitness field experiments and the limits that exist for interpreting outcome measures (rates of suspect and filler identifications). A widely-known limitation of field experiments is that, unlike simulated crime experiments, the guilt or innocence of the suspects is not easily known independently of the behavior of the eyewitnesses. Less well appreciated is that the rate of identification of lineup fillers, although clearly errors, can be a misleading measure if the filler identification rate is used to assess which of two or more lineup procedures is the better procedure. Several examples are used to illustrate that there are clearly improper procedures that would yield fewer identifications of fillers than would their proper counterparts. For example, biased lineup structure (e.g., using poorly matched fillers) as well as suggestive lineup procedures (that can result from non-blind administration of lineups) would reduce filler identification errors compared to unbiased and non-suggestive procedures. Hence, under many circumstances filler identification rates can be misleading indicators of preferred methods. Comparisons of lineup procedures in future field experiments will not be easily accepted in the absence of double-blind administration methods in all conditions plus true random assignment to conditions.

Keywords

Eyewitness Lineups Field experiments 

References

  1. Behrman, B. W., & Davey, S. L. (2001). Eyewitness identification in actual criminal cases: An archival analysis. Law and Human Behavior, 25, 475–491.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Behrman, B. W., & Richards, R. E. (2005). Suspect/foil identification in actual crimes and in the laboratory: A reality monitoring analysis. Law and Human Behavior, 29, 279–301.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bradfield, A. L., Wells, G. L., & Olson, E. A. (2002). The damaging effect of confirming feedback on the relation between eyewitness certainty and identification accuracy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 112–120.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dixon, S., & Memon, A. (2005). The effect of post-identification feedback on the recall of crime and perpetrator details. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 935–951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Douglass, A. B., & McQuiston-Surrett, D. M. (2006). Post-identification feedback: Exploring the effects of sequential photospreads and eyewitnesses’ awareness of the identification task. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 991–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Douglass, A. B., & Steblay, N. (2006). Memory distortion in eyewitnesses: A meta-analysis of the post-identification feedback effect. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 859–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Garrioch, L., & Brimacombe, C. A. E. (2001). Lineup administrators’ expectations: Their impact on eyewitness confidence. Law and Human Behavior, 25, 299–315.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hafstad, G. S., Memon, A., & Logie, R. (2004). Post-identification feedback, confidence and recollections of witnessing conditions in child witnesses. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 901–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harris, M. J., & Rosenthal, R. (1985). Mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects: 31 meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 363–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mecklenburg, S. (2006a). Report to the Legislature of the State of Illinois: The Illinois Pilot Program on Sequential Double-blind Identification Procedures.Google Scholar
  11. Mecklenburg, S. (2006b). Addendum to the Report to the Legislature of the State of Illinois: The Illinois Pilot Program on Sequential Double-blind Identification Procedures.Google Scholar
  12. Neuschatz, J. S., Preston, E. L., Burkett, A. D., Toglia, M. R., Lampinen, J. M., Neuschatz, J. S., Fairless, A. H., Lawson, D. S., Powers, R. A., & Goodsell, C. A. (2005). The effects of post-identification feedback and age on retrospective eyewitness memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 435–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. O’Toole, T. P. (2006). What’s the matter with Illinois? How an opportunity was squandered to conduct an important study on eyewitness identification procedures. Champion, 2006, 18–23.Google Scholar
  14. Schacter, D., Dawes, R., Jacoby, L. L., Kahneman, D., Lempert, R., Roediger, H. L., & Rosenthal, R. (2007). Studying eyewitness investigations in the field. Law and Human Behavior (this issue).Google Scholar
  15. Semmler, C., & Brewer, N. (2006). Post-identification feedback effects on face recognition confidence: Evidence for metacognitive influences. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 895–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Semmler, C., Brewer, N., & Wells, G. L. (2004). Effects of postidentification feedback on eyewitness identification and nonidentification. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 334–346.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sherman, L. W. (2006). To develop and test: The inventive difference between evaluation and experimentation. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2, 393–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Slater, A. (1994). Identification parades: A scientific Evaluation. Police Research Award Scheme. London: Police Research Group, Home Office.Google Scholar
  19. Valentine, T., Pickering, A., & Darling, S. (2003). Characteristics of eyewitness identification that predict the outcome of real lineups. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 969–993. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wells, G. L. (1988). Eyewitness identification: A system handbook. Toronto: Carswell Legal Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Wells, G. L., & Bradfield, A. L. (1998). “Good, you identified the suspect:” Feedback to eyewitnesses distorts their reports of the witnessing experience. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 360–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wells, G. L., & Bradfield, A. L. (1999). Distortions in eyewitnesses’ recollections: Can the postidentification feedback effect be moderated? Psychological Science, 10, 138–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wells, G. L., Olson, E., & Charman, S. (2003). Distorted retrospective eyewitness reports as functions of feedback and delay. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 9, 42–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wells, G. L., Rydell, S. M., & Seelau, E. P. (1993). On the selection of distractors for eyewitness lineups. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 835–844.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wright, D. B., & McDaid, A. T. (1996). Comparing system and estimator variables using data from real lineups. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wright, D. B., & Skagerberg, E. M. (2007). Post-identification feedback affects real eyewitnesses. Psychological Science, 18, 172–178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Personalised recommendations