Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 285–289 | Cite as

The flaw in Amendola and Wixted’s conclusion on simultaneous versus sequential lineups

  • Gary L. Wells
  • Jennifer E. Dysart
  • Nancy K. Steblay



Our objective was to examine how Amendola and Wixted (A&W, 2014) arrived at their conclusion that eyewitness identifications of suspects from simultaneous lineups were supported better by corroborating evidence than were identifications from sequential lineups. Their cases came from a randomized field experiment by Wells et al. (2014).


We gathered information from the A&W article, examined an earlier, more complete report by Amendola et al. (2013), and then confirmed our numbers with Amendola.


We discovered that the small subsample (n = 52) on which A&W’s entire conclusion was based was unrepresentative of the larger set of cases (N = 236) in a way that was heavily biased in favor of the simultaneous lineup. Specifically, although the larger data set showed that simultaneous and sequential lineups produced the same rate of adjudicated guilt, their small subsample of 52 cases was highly imbalanced: Among the 30 sequential cases selected, 16 were drawn from the adjudicated-guilty set and 14 were from the not-prosecuted set; among the 22 simultaneous cases selected, 17 were drawn from the adjudicated-guilty set and a mere five were from the not-prosecuted set. This problem could not be known from the article itself.


Because adjudicated guilty cases had more corroborating evidence than not-prosecuted cases and because simultaneous and sequential lineups produced equivalent rates of adjudicated guilty outcomes, the small sub-sample of 52 should have reflected this same equivalence. Instead, the sub-sample was stacked against the sequential and in favor of the simultaneous and A&W’s conclusion is not warranted.


Sequential lineups Eyewitness field studies Eyewitness identification 


  1. Amendola, K., Valdovinos, M. D., Slipka, M. G., Hamilton, E., Sigler, M., & Kaufman, A. (2013). Photo Arrays in Eyewitness Identification Procedures: Follow-up on the Test of Sequential versus Simultaneous Procedures (Study One) and An Experimental Study of the Effect of Photo Arrays on Evaluations of Evidentiary Strength by Key Criminal Justice Decision Makers. Unpublished manuscript, Police Foundation, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. Amendola, K., & Wixted, J. T. (2014). Comparing the diagnostic accuracy of suspect identifications made by actual eyewitnesses from simultaneous and sequential lineups in a randomized field trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology. doi:10.1007/s11292-014-9219-2.
  3. Hernan, M. A., Clayton, D., & Keiding, N. (2011). The Simpson’s paradox unraveled. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40, 780–785. doi:10.1093/ije/dyr041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Wells, G. L., Steblay, N. K. & Dysart, J. E. (2014). Double-blind photo-lineups using actual eyewitnesses: An empirical test of a sequential versus simultaneous lineup procedure. Law and Human Behavior, in press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary L. Wells
    • 1
  • Jennifer E. Dysart
    • 2
  • Nancy K. Steblay
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Augsburg CollegeMinneapolisUSA

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