Robustness of the Sequential Lineup Advantage

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Abstract

A growing movement in the United States and around the world involves promoting the advantages of conducting an eyewitness lineup in a sequential manner. We conducted a large study (N = 2,529) that included 24 comparisons of sequential versus simultaneous lineups. A liberal statistical criterion revealed only 2 significant sequential lineup advantages and 3 significant simultaneous advantages. Both sequential advantages occurred when the good photograph of the guilty suspect or either innocent suspect was in the fifth position in the sequential lineup; all 3 simultaneous advantages occurred when the poorer quality photograph of the guilty suspect or either innocent suspect was in the second position. Adjusting the statistical criterion to control for the multiple tests (.05/24) revealed no significant sequential advantages. Moreover, despite finding more conservative overall choosing for the sequential lineup, no support was found for the proposal that a sequential advantage was due to that conservative criterion shift. Unless lineups with particular characteristics predominate in the real world, there appears to be no strong preference for conducting lineups in either a sequential or a simultaneous manner.

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