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Discovery

Mistaken Identity: How Feedback "After the Fact" Influences Eyewitnesses

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Mug shots with question marks

Eyewitness testimony is a fundamental aspect of the American justice system. But "DNA acquittals" suggest that mistaken eyewitness identification is the primary cause of the conviction of innocent people.

Credit: Gary Wells, composite by John Prusinski

 

Gary L. Wells

Gary L. Wells, Distinguished Professor Psychology Department Iowa State University.

Credit: Gary Wells

 

Graph

Eyewitness Memory as a Function of Post-identification Feedback. The graph above shows the percentage of witnesses who recall being very certain, having a good view, being able to make out details of the culprit's face, ease of identification, and basis of identification. The control group (red bars) was given no feedback. The confirm group (blue bars) was given confirming feedback. The percentage of eyewitnesses who report having been very certain rises alarmingly to 50% if they received confirming feedback, compared to only 12% for the control condition.

Credit: Gary Wells

 

Watch the crime carefully then select the culprit from a lineup, if you can!

Credit: Gary Wells