How Sure Are You That This Is the Man You Saw? Child Witnesses Can Use Confidence Judgments to Identify a Target

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Abstract

We tested whether an alternative lineup procedure designed to minimize problematic influences (e.g., metacognitive development) on decision criteria could be effectively used by children and improve child eyewitness identification performance relative to a standard identification task. Five hundred sixteen children (6- to 13-year-olds) watched a video of a target reading word lists and, the next day, made confidence ratings for each lineup member or standard categorical decisions for 8 lineup members presented sequentially. Two algorithms were applied to classify confidence ratings into categorical decisions and facilitate comparisons across conditions. The classification algorithms produced accuracy rates for the confidence rating procedure that were comparable to the categorical procedure. These findings demonstrate that children can use a ratings-based procedure to discriminate between previously seen and unseen faces. In turn, this invites more nuanced and empirical consideration of ratings-based identification evidence as a probabilistic index of guilt that may attenuate problematic social influences on child witnesses’ decision criteria.

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