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Media Advisory 11-010

Eyewitness Identification Reform: Psychological Science and Public Policy

On April 18, NSF's Distinguished Lecture series presents human learning and memory expert Steven Clark, who discusses improving eyewitness testimony

a seated witness and a standing lawyer with a raised hand in a courtroom.

Steven Clark: New eyewitness identification procedures inconsistent with research data.

April 14, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Eyewitnesses sometimes make mistakes that result in falsely convicting innocent people. As a result and as a matter of law, several states and local jurisdictions are implementing new procedures for conducting eyewitness identifications.

But Steven Clark, a professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, whose research is directed at issues of human learning and memory, says these new procedures may be based in part on a false premise. He argues that proponents, who contend the new procedures reduce the risk of false identifications and have little or no negative effect on correct identifications, may themselves be making a mistake.

Clark comes to the National Science Foundation on Monday, April 18 at 10 a.m. EDT to present a distinguished lecture titled "Eyewitness Identification Reform: Psychological Science and Public Policy." The lecture is sponsored by NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.

Clark will use the lecture to argue that seeing the new procedures as being without cost is inconsistent with decision theories, and, more importantly, with research data. Ultimately, he will argue that to make sound public policy, the justice system needs to apply better theories about how people remember and make decisions. At the same time, he will assert that new policy frameworks must be developed that better connect eyewitness research to public policy.

What:NSF SBE Distinguished Lecture

Who:Steven Clark, professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside

When:April 18, 10 a.m. EDT

Where:Room 555, Stafford II
4121 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Va. 22230

Metro:Orange Line to Ballston

Note: Visitors must RSVP to Lisa-Joy Zgorski or Bobbie Mixon in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs to register for a visitor pass for access to the Stafford II building. Contact Lisa-Joy or Bobbie by email or phone (703) 292-8311 or (703) 292-8485.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, email:
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

Program Contacts
Jennifer L. Thornhill, NSF, (703) 292-7273, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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