Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 199–216 | Cite as

Selecting Lineup Foils in Eyewitness Identification Experiments: Experimental Control and Real-World Simulation

  • Steven E. ClarkEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Tunnicliff


Experimental research on eyewitness identification follows a standard principle of experimental design. Perpetrator-present and perpetrator-absent lineups are constructed with the same foils, so that the two conditions are identical except for the presence or absence of the true perpetrator of the crime. However, this aspect of the design simulates conditions that do not correspond to those of real criminal investigations. Specifically, these conditions can create perp-absent lineups in which the foils are selected based on their similarity to an unknown person--the real perpetrator. Analysis of the similarity relations predicts that when foils for perp-absent lineups are selected based on their match to the perpetrator the false identification rate will be lower than if the foils are selected based on their match to the innocent suspect. This prediction was confirmed in an experiment that compared these two perp-absent lineup conditions. These results suggest that false identification rates in previous experiments would have been higher if the foils had been selected based on their match to the innocent suspect, rather than the absent perpetrator.


Previous Experiment Social Psychology Experimental Control Experimental Research Identification Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Connors, E., Lundregan, T., Miller, N., & McEwen, T. (1996). Convicted by juries, exonerated by science: Case studies in the use of DNA evidence to establish innocence after trial. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  2. Clark, S. E. (1999). WITNESS: A mathematical model of eyewitness identification. Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  3. Cutler, B. L., & Penrod, S. D. (1988). Improving the reliability of eyewitness identification: Lineup construction and presentation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, 281–290.Google Scholar
  4. Cutler, B. L., & Penrod, S.D. (1995). Mistaken identification: The eyewitness, psychology, and the law. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cutler, B. L., Penrod, S. D., & Martens, T. K. (1987). The reliability of eyewitness identification: The role of system and estimator variables. Law and Human Behavior, 11, 233–258.Google Scholar
  6. Gonzalez, R., Ellsworth, P. C., & Pembroke, M. (1993). Response biases in lineups and showups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 525–537.Google Scholar
  7. Graziano, A. M., & Raulin, M. L. (1993). Research methods: A process of inquiry (2nd Ed.). New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  8. Gross, J., & Hayne, H. (1996). Eyewitness identification by 5-to 6-year-old children. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 359–374.Google Scholar
  9. Huff, C. R. (1987). Wrongful conviction: Society tolerance of injustice. Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 4, 99–115.Google Scholar
  10. Krafka, C., & Penrod, S. (1985). Reinstatement of context in a field experiment on eyewitness identification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 58–69.Google Scholar
  11. Lindsay, R. C. L. (1986). Confidence and accuracy of eyewitness identification from lineups. Law and Human Behavior, 10, 229–240.Google Scholar
  12. Lindsay, R. C. L., Lea, J. A., & Fulford, J. A. (1991). Sequential lineup presentation: Technique matters. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 741–745.Google Scholar
  13. Lindsay, R. C. L., Lea, J. A., Nosworthy, G. J., Fulford, J. A., Hector, J., LeVan, V., & Seabrook, C. (1991). Biased lineups: Sequential presentation reduces the problem. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 796–802.Google Scholar
  14. Lindsay, R. C. L., Martin, R., & Webber, L. (1994). Default values in eyewitness descriptions: A problem for the match-to-description lineup foil selection strategy. Law and Human Behavior, 18, 527–541.Google Scholar
  15. Lindsay, R. C. L., & Wells, G. L. (1980).What price justice? Exploring the relationship of lineup fairness to identification accuracy. Law and Human Behavior, 4, 303–313.Google Scholar
  16. Lindsay, R. C. L., & Wells, G. L. (1985). Improving eyewitness identifications from lineups: Simultaneous versus sequential lineup presentation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 556–564.Google Scholar
  17. Loftus, E. F. (1979). Eyewitness testimony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Luus, C. A. E., & Wells, G. L. (1991). Eyewitness identification and the selection of distracters for lineups. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 43–57.Google Scholar
  19. Malpass, R. S., & Devine, P. G. (1981). Eyewitness identification: Lineup instructions and the absence of the offender. Journal of Applied Psychology, 66, 482–498.Google Scholar
  20. Melara, R., Dewitt-Rickards, T., & O'Brien, T. (1989). Enhancing lineup identification accuracy: Two codes are better than one. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 706–713.Google Scholar
  21. Munsterberg, H. (1908). On the witness stand: Essays on Psychology and Crime. New York: McClure.Google Scholar
  22. Murray, D. M., & Wells, G. L. (1982). Does knowledge that a crime was staged affect eyewitness performance? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 12, 42–53.Google Scholar
  23. Navon, D. (1992). Selection of lineup foils by similarity to suspect is likely to misfire. Law and Human Behavior, 16, 575–593.Google Scholar
  24. O'Rourke, T. E., Penrod, S. D., Cutler, B. L., & Stuve, T. E. (1989). The external validity of eyewitness identification research: Generalizing across subject populations. Law and Human Behavior, 13, 385–396.Google Scholar
  25. Pigott, M., & Brigham, J. C. (1985). Relationship between accuracy of prior description and facial recognition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 547–555.Google Scholar
  26. Read, J. D. (1995). The availability heuristic in person identification: The sometimes misleading consequences of enhanced contextual information. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 9, 91–121.Google Scholar
  27. Read, J. D., Tollestrup, P., Hammersley, R., McFadzen, E., & Christensen, A. (1990). The unconscious transference effect: Are innocent bystanders ever misidentified? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 4, 4–31.Google Scholar
  28. Ricci, C. M., Beal, C. R., & Dekle, D. J. (1996). The effect of parental versus unfamiliar interviewers on children's eyewitness memory and identification accuracy. Law andHumanBehavior, 20(5), 483–500.Google Scholar
  29. Sanders, G. S. (1984). Effects of context cues on eyewitness identification responses. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 386–397.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, E. E., & Medin, D. L. (1981). Categories and concepts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Steblay, N. M. (1997). Social influence in eyewitness recall: A meta-analytic review of lineup instruction effects. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 283–297.Google Scholar
  32. Tollestrup, P. A., Turtle, J.W., & Yuille, J. C. (1994). Actual victims and witnesses to robbery and fraud: An archival analysis. In D. F. Ross, J. D. Read, & M. P. Toglia (Eds.), Adult eyewitness testimony: Current trends and developments. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Tunnicliff, J. L., & Clark, S. E. (2000). Selecting foils for identification lineups: Matching to suspects or descriptions? Law and Human Behavior, 24, 231–258.Google Scholar
  34. Wells, G. L. (1984). The psychology of lineup identification. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 89–103.Google Scholar
  35. Wells, G.L. (1993).What do we know about eyewitness identification? American Psychologist, 48, 553–571.Google Scholar
  36. Wells, G. L., Ferguson, T. J., & Lindsay, R. C. L. (1981). The tractability of eyewitness confidence and its implications for triers of fact. Journal of Applied Psychology, 66, 688–696.Google Scholar
  37. Wells, G. L., Rydell, S. M., & Seelau, E. P. (1993). The selection of distractors for eyewitness lineups. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 835–844.Google Scholar
  38. Wells, G. L., Small, M., Penrod, S., Malpass, R. S., Fulero, S. M., & Brimacombe, C. A. E. (1998). Eyewitness identification procedures: Recommendations for lineups and photospreads. Law and Human Behavior, 22, 603–643.Google Scholar
  39. Wogalter, M. S., Malpass, R. S., & Berger, M. A. (1993). How do police officers construct lineups: A national survey. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 37, 640–644.Google Scholar
  40. Wogalter, M. S., Marwitz, D.B., & Leonard, D.C. (1992). Suggestiveness in photospread line-ups: Similarity induces distinctiveness. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 6, 443–453.Google Scholar
  41. Woodworth, R. S., & Schlosberg, H. (1956). Experimental psychology (Rev. ed.). New York: Holt & Company.Google Scholar
  42. Yarmey, A. D., Yarmey, A. L., & Yarmey, M. J. (1994). Face and voice identifications in showups and lineups. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 453–464.Google Scholar
  43. Yarmey, A. D., Yarmey,M. J., & Yarmey, A. L. (1996). Accuracy of eyewitness identifications in showups and lineups. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 459–477.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychology Association 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiverside

Personalised recommendations