A perceptual scaling approach to eyewitness identification.

Research paper by Sergei S Gepshtein, Yurong Y Wang, Fangchao F He, Dinh D Diep, Thomas D TD Albright

Indexed on: 16 Jul '20Published on: 16 Jul '20Published in: Nature communications


Eyewitness misidentification accounts for 70% of verified erroneous convictions. To address this alarming phenomenon, research has focused on factors that influence likelihood of correct identification, such as the manner in which a lineup is conducted. Traditional lineups rely on overt eyewitness responses that confound two covert factors: strength of recognition memory and the criterion for deciding what memory strength is sufficient for identification. Here we describe a lineup that permits estimation of memory strength independent of decision criterion. Our procedure employs powerful techniques developed in studies of perception and memory: perceptual scaling and signal detection analysis. Using these tools, we scale memory strengths elicited by lineup faces, and quantify performance of a binary classifier tasked with distinguishing perpetrator from innocent suspect. This approach reveals structure of memory inaccessible using traditional lineups and renders accurate identifications uninfluenced by decision bias. The approach furthermore yields a quantitative index of individual eyewitness performance.