Blind Sequential Lineup Administration Reduces Both False Identifications and Confidence in Those False Identifications


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Abstract

One of the most recommended procedures proposed by eyewitness experts is the use of double-blind lineups, in which the administrator does not know the identity of the suspect in the lineup. But despite the near universality of this recommendation, there is surprisingly little empirical research to support the claim that nonblind administration inflates false identifications. What little research has been conducted has shown conflicting findings with regard to the conditions under which nonblind administration affects false identifications, as well as its effects on witness confidence. The current study attempts to elucidate this effect. Student-participants (n = 312) were randomly assigned to play the role of either a lineup administrator (who were either told the identity of the suspect in the lineup or not) or a mock crime witness. Following unbiased instructions, administrators presented either a target-present or target-absent sequential lineup to the witness while being surreptitiously videorecorded. Nonblind administration significantly inflated false, but not correct, identifications, and significantly inflated witness confidence in those false identifications. Video recordings indicated that nonblind administrators were significantly more likely than blind administrators to smile (a) while the witness was viewing a photograph of the suspect, and (b) after a suspect identification. Results provide stronger support for the use of blind lineup administration by broadening the conditions under which nonblind administration is shown to inflate false identifications. Possible reconciliations for conflicting findings in the literature are discussed.

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