Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Having to make quick decisions helps witnesses identify the bad guy in a lineup

Date:
August 28, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Eyewitness identification evidence is often persuasive in the courtroom and yet current eyewitness identification tests often fail to pick the culprit. Even worse, these tests sometimes result in wrongfully accusing innocent suspects. Now, psychological scientists are proposing a radical alternative to the traditional police lineup that focuses on eyewitnesses' confidence judgments.

Eyewitness identification evidence is often persuasive in the courtroom and yet current eyewitness identification tests often fail to pick the culprit. Even worse, these tests sometimes result in wrongfully accusing innocent suspects. Now psychological scientists are proposing a radical alternative to the traditional police lineup that focuses on eyewitnesses' confidence judgments.

Related Articles


In a new article forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Neil Brewer of Flinders University and colleagues report a new type of lineup in which witnesses are presented with lineup photos one at a time and are simply asked to rate how confident they are that the person in each photo is the culprit. Importantly, witnesses are not given time to mull over their assessments; they must respond within a few seconds.

Brewer and his colleagues have tested this technique, called "deadline confidence judgments," with more than 900 participants across several experiments conducted over the past three years.

In each experiment, volunteers watched short films depicting crimes or a mundane event in which one person was prominent.

Either five minutes later or a full week later, half of the participants were shown a series of individual pictures from a lineup of 12 people and asked to make a confidence decision about each face within three seconds of it appearing on the computer screen. They were asked to choose one of 11 options, ranging from "absolutely confident that this is the culprit" to "absolutely certain this is not the culprit."

The other half of the participants were shown the same faces but given as long as they liked to answer whether each face was or was not the culprit (yes or no). Sometimes the photos included the culprit and sometimes they did not.

Using an algorithm to infer a decision from participants' confidence ratings, the researchers found that overall classification accuracy was 20 to 30 percent higher for the new lineup than the conventional one.

Moreover, the researchers were able to identify particular patterns of confidence judgments that showed either a very high or very low likelihood that an individual witness's judgments were accurate.

The finding that eyewitnesses' judgments were more accurate under a deadline fits with previous research, which has shown that accurate eyewitness identifications are made significantly faster than inaccurate ones, and that a number of outside factors are removed with a short deadline.

"A weakness of the traditional test lies in the fact that it requires a witness to make a single 'yes' or 'no' decision about a lineup, with plenty of time to reflect on their decision," says Brewer. "But the time lapse from the initial viewing to the response often mitigates against witnesses making accurate decisions, as does an array of external factors."

These external factors include the conditions under which people view lineup photos, constraints on attention, and social cues that bias the witness towards a positive identification. For example, a witness might think that she should know they answer just because she viewed a photo for a long time.

According to Brewer, traditional identification tests often fail because the witness feels pressure to identify a guilty party. This new study suggests that witnesses are more likely to make accurate identifications when they do not have to be so precise.

With the rising number of DNA exonerations and the frequent failure of witnesses to identify the true culprit, Brewer believes that there is a compelling case for a new system of lineups.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Neil Brewer et al. Identifying the Bad Guy in a Lineup using Deadlined Confidence Judgments. Psychological Science, 2012

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Having to make quick decisions helps witnesses identify the bad guy in a lineup." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135105.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, August 28). Having to make quick decisions helps witnesses identify the bad guy in a lineup. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135105.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Having to make quick decisions helps witnesses identify the bad guy in a lineup." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135105.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins