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Children’s Susceptibility to Misidentifying a Familiar Bystander From a Lineup: When Younger is Better

Abstract

Children from 5 to 12 years of age (N=779) were shown a videotape where a preschool teacher has money stolen from her wallet. Children were shown a lineup, and for children in the bystander condition, the lineup contained a familiar bystander without the thief. Children in the control condition viewed the same lineup but they had not seen the bystander in the videotape. Among the 11–12-year olds, participants in the bystander condition were significantly more likely than control participants to misidentify the familiar bystander. This effect was not found in children from 5 to 10 years of age. When children in the control condition were shown a lineup that contained the thief without the bystander, the 11–12-year olds were significantly more likely than the younger children to correctly identify the thief. These findings demonstrate that age can both increase and decrease the accuracy of children’s lineup identification accuracy depending on the task at hand and the content of a lineup.

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Correspondence to David F. Ross.

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Ross, D.F., Marsil, D.F., Benton, T.R. et al. Children’s Susceptibility to Misidentifying a Familiar Bystander From a Lineup: When Younger is Better. Law Hum Behav 30, 249–257 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-006-9034-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-006-9034-z

Keywords

  • Unconscious transference
  • Children identification accuracy
  • Lineup identification
  • Child witnesses