Eyewitness Identification

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Witnesses to crimes are sometimes asked to view a police lineup to see if they can identify the culprit. Using experimentally created events, psychological researchers have long warned that eyewitness identification evidence is less reliable than people seem to believe. Corroborating the concerns of psychologists, since the advent of forensic DNA testing in the 1990s, 258 people convicted by juries in the United States have been freed based on exculpatory DNA tests, and 200 of these were cases of mistaken eyewitness identification (Innocence
Project, 2010). Examination of the reasons for these mistaken identifications has provided rich avenues of investigation guided by cognitive and social perspectives. Here we focus on (a) variables that …show more content…

Not surprisingly, witnesses are likely to assume that the culprit is in the lineup; when explicitly warned that the lineup may or may not contain the culprit, witnesses are less likely to make a selection (Brewer & Wells, 2006). Identification accuracy is impaired under encoding conditions likely to undermine memory strength, such as divided attention, short exposure duration, and long viewing distance (e.g., Lindsay, Semmler, Weber,
Brewer, & Lindsay, 2008; Palmer, Brewer, McKinnon, &
Weber, 2010). Some conditions, such as identifying a culprit of a different race or one who was wearing a disguise (e.g.,
Meissner & Brigham, 2001), undermine encoding and/or lineup discrimination performance. Other conditions such as lengthy retention intervals are associated with diminished memory strength (Deffenbacher, Bornstein, McGorty, & Penrod,
Indicators of Identification Accuracy
Because an identification decision is often the key evidence against a suspect, characteristics of identification decisions that might discriminate accurate from inaccurate decisions have been explored. Decision confidence (Brewer & Wells,

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