Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 543–562 | Cite as

A Problem with Double-Blind Photospread Procedures: Photospread Administrators Use One Eyewitness's Confidence to Influence the Identification of Another Eyewitness

  • Amy Bradfield DouglassEmail author
  • Caroline Smith
  • Rebecca Fraser-Thill


In Experiment 1, photospread administrators (PAs, N = 50) showed a target-absent photospread to a confederate eyewitness (CW), who was randomly assigned to identify one photo with either high or low confidence. PAs subsequently administered the same target-absent photospread to participant eyewitnesses (PWs, N = 50), all of whom had viewed a live staged crime 1 week earlier. CWs were rated by the PAs as significantly more confident in the high-confidence condition versus low-confidence condition. More importantly, the confidence of the CW affected the identification decision of the PW. In the low-confidence condition, the photo identified by the CW was identified by the PW significantly more than the other photos; there was no significant difference in photo choice in the high-confidence condition. In spite of the obvious influence exerted in the low-confidence condition, observers were not able to detect bias in the photospread procedures. A second experiment was conducted to test a post-hoc explanation for the results of Experiment 1: PAs exerted influence in the low-confidence condition because they perceived the task as more difficult for the eyewitness than in the high-confidence condition. Independent observers (N = 84) rated the difficulty of the confederate's task as higher in the low-confidence condition compared with the high-confidence condition, suggesting that expectations of task difficulty might be driving the effect observed in Experiment 1. Results support recommendations for double-blind photospreads and emphasize that the same investigator should not administer photo lineups to multiple eyewitnesses in an investigation.

Key Words

eyewitness confidence photospread administrators double-blind testing 


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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Bradfield Douglass
    • 1
    Email author
  • Caroline Smith
    • 1
  • Rebecca Fraser-Thill
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentBates CollegeLewiston

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