The reliability of eyewitness identification

The role of system and estimator variables

Abstract

This study examines the effects of 14 estimator variables (e.g., disguise of robber, exposure time, weapon visibility) and system variables (e.g., lineup instructions, exposure to mugshots) on a number of measures of eyewitness performance: identification accuracy, choosing rates, confidence in lineup choice, relation between confidence and identification accuracy, memory for peripheral details, memory for physical characteristics of target, and time estimates. Subjects viewed a videotaped reenactment of an armed robbery and later attempted an identification. Characteristics of the videotape and lineup task were manipulated. Prominent findings were as follows: identification accuracy was affected by both estimator and system variables including disguise of robber, weapon visibility, elaboration instructions, and lineup instructions. Memory for peripheral details was positively correlated with choosing on the identification task but negatively correlated with identification accuracy.

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Additional information

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation under grant SES-8411721 and by the National Institute of Justice under grant No. 84-IJ-CX-0010 to the second author. Carol Krafka and Peter Shapiro were instrumental in the planning of this research. In addition, we wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript, and Mark Bartells, Karla Bishell, James Coward, Michael Hart, Thomas O'Rourke, and Todd Ripple for their assistance with various phases of this research.

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Cutler, B.L., Penrod, S.D. & Martens, T.K. The reliability of eyewitness identification. Law Hum Behav 11, 233–258 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01044644

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Keywords

  • Exposure Time
  • Social Psychology
  • Physical Characteristic
  • System Variable
  • Time Estimate