ABSTRACT

Our study examined the effects of biased and unbiased lineup instructions verbiage on the accuracy of eyewitness identification in a suspect-absent photographic lineup. Seventy subjects were randomly assigned to either a biased instruction condition or an unbiased instruction condition where they watched a mocked crime video, solved word-search puzzles for five minutes, completed a suspect-absent photographic lineup, and then completed an online post-witness experience feedback questionnaire. The unbiased condition utilized photographic lineup instructions from the State Bar of Michigan's Eyewitness Identification Task Force recommended policy writing guide. For the biased condition, the instructions alluded to subjects that the suspect was present. Subjects in the unbiased condition answered correctly 45.7% of the time compared to 28.6% of those in the biased condition. Chi-square test for independence indicated no significant association between the lineup instructions verbiage and the accuracy of eyewitness identification rates. Binomial logistic regression found that the confidence level in the identification choice made, ease of making an identification, decision making time, ability to recognize the lineup appeinstructions, and group condition were not significant predictors of subjects correctly identifying the suspect. Our results would suggest that the verbiage of the lineup instructions does not increase accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

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