Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 23–33 | Cite as

Dance Like No One’s Watching: the Influence of Demand Characteristics When Examining Lineups via Computer or In-Person

  • Emily PicaEmail author
  • Joanna Pozzulo
  • Chelsea L. Sheahan


Lineup administrators may inadvertently bias an eyewitness’ identification; as such, the blind-lineup administration is recommended to combat this bias. Three studies examined eyewitness identification accuracy when the lineup is presented on a computer versus in-person to determine whether computer-administrated lineups could replace in-person lineups to ensure blind administration. Study 1 (N = 378) varied whether the administration was on a computer versus in-person across the simultaneous, elimination, and wildcard procedures. Overall, participants were more accurate when presented with the online administration; moreover, participants were more accurate in target-absent lineups when presented with a simultaneous or elimination procedure compared to the wildcard procedure. Study 2 (N = 367) was similar to study 1 but used different stimuli and included the simultaneous, elimination, and elimination-plus procedures. Identification accuracy was comparable for online and in-person administration. Study 3 (N = 219) sought to examine why online administration was superior in study 1 by varying whether the researcher was present only during the identification task. When the researcher was present, participants were more likely to make a foil identification in the simultaneous procedure compared to the elimination procedure. The results of these three studies suggest that computer-administrated lineups may be a feasible solution to ensure blind administration.


Eyewitness identification Blind administration Online administration Lineup procedure Administrator bias 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Bruer K, Fitzgerald R, Therrien N, Price H (2015) Line-up member similarity influences the effectiveness of a salient rejection option for eyewitnesses. Psychiatry Psychol Law 22(1):124–133. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Buckhout R (1974) Eyewitness testimony. Sci Am 231(6):23–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clark S, Howell R, Davey S (2008) Regularities in eyewitness identification. Law Hum Behav 32:187–3218.
  4. Cutler B, Daugherty B, Babu S, Hodges L, Van Wallendael L (2009) Creating blind photoarrays using virtual human technology: a feasibility test. Police Quarterly 12:289–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Douglass A, Steblay N (2006) Memory distortion in eyewitnesses: a meta-analysis of the post-identification feedback effect. Appl Cogn Psychol 20:859–869. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Greathouse S, Kovera M (2009) Instruction bias and lineup presentation moderate the effects of administrator knowledge on eyewitness identification. Law Hum Behav 33:70–82. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Haw RM, Fisher RP (2004) Effects of administrator-witness contact on eyewitness identification accuracy. J Appl Psychol 89:1105–1112. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Humphries JE, Holliday RE, Flowe HD (2012) Faces in motion: age-related changes in eyewitness identification performance in simultaneous, sequential, and elimination video lineups. Appl Cogn Psychol 26(1):149–158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Innocence Project (2018). Eyewitness misidentification. Retrieved on February 8, 2018 from
  10. Karageorge A, Zajac R (2011) Exploring the effects of age and delay on children’s person identifications: verbal descriptions, lineup performance, and the influence of wildcards. Br J Psychol 102(2):161–163. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lindsay RCL, Wells GL (1980) What price justice? Exploring the relationship of lineup fairness to identification accuracy. Law Hum Behav 4:303–313. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lindsay RCL, Wells GL (1985) Improving eyewitness identification from lineups: simultaneous and sequential lineup presentation. J Appl Psychol 70:556–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. MacLin O, Meissner C, Zimmerman L (2005) PC_Eyewitness: A computerized framework for the administration and practical application of research in eyewitness psychology. Behav Res Methods 37:423–334Google Scholar
  14. Malpass RS (2006) A policy evaluation of simultaneous and sequential lineups. Psychol Public Policy Law 12:394–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Malpass RS, Devine PG (1981) Eyewitness identification: lineup instructions and the absence of the offender. J Appl Psychol 66:482–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Phillips M, McAuliff B, Kovera M, Cutler B (1999) Double-blind photoarray administration as a safeguard against administrator bias. J Appl Psychol 84:940–951. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pica, E., & Pozzulo, J. (2017a). The elimination-plus lineup: testing a modified lineup procedure with confidence. J Invest Psychol Offender Profiling Advance online publication doi:, 14, 294, 306
  18. Pica, E., & Pozzulo, J. (2017b). Younger and older adult eyewitness identification: a comparison of the simultaneous, elimination, and wildcard procedures. Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law. Advance Online Publication. doi:, 25, 106, 123
  19. Pozzulo JD, Lindsay RCL (1998) Identification accuracy of children versus adults: a meta-analysis. Law Hum Behav 22:549–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pozzulo JD, Lindsay RCL (1999) Elimination lineups: an improved identification procedure for child eyewitnesses. J Appl Psychol 84(2):167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pozzulo JD, Dempsey J, Corey S, Girardi A, Lawandi A, Aston C (2008) Can a lineup procedure designed for child witnesses work for adults? Comparing simultaneous, sequential, and elimination lineup procedures. J Appl Soc Psychol 38:2195–2209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pozzulo JD, Dempsey J, Bruer K, Sheahan C (2012) The culprit in target-absent lineups: understanding children’s false positive responding. J Police Crim Psychol 27:55–62. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pozzulo JD, Reed J, Pettalia J, Dempsey J (2015) Simultaneous, sequential, elimination, and wildcard: a comparison of lineup procedures. J Police Crim Psychol 31:71–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sheahan, C., Pica, E., Pozzulo, J., & Nastasa, C. (2017). Eyewitness recall and identification abilities of old-adolescents and young-adults. J Appl Dev Psychol Advance Online Publication doi:, 53, 86, 95
  25. Short J, Williams E, Christie B (1976) The social psychological of telecommunications. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Hoboken, NJGoogle Scholar
  26. Steblay NK, Dysart JE, Wells GL (2011) Seventy-two tests of the sequential lineup superiority effect: a meta-analysis and policy discussion. Psychol Public Policy Law 17:99–193.
  27. Wells GL (1993) What do we know about eyewitness identification? Am Psychol 48:553–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wells GL, Luus CAE (1990) Police lineups as experiments: social methodology as a framework for properly conducted lineups. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 16:106–117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wells GL, Small M, Penrod S, Malpass R, Fulero S, Brimacombe C (1998) Eyewitness identification procedures: recommendations for lineups and photospreads. Law Hum Behav 22:603–647. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zajac R, Karageorge A (2009) The wildcard: a simple technique for improving children’s lineup performance. Appl Cogn Psychol 23:358–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily Pica
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanna Pozzulo
    • 2
  • Chelsea L. Sheahan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological Science and CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityClarksvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations