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Pitfalls in using eyewitness confidence to diagnose the accuracy of an individual identification decision


Sauer, JD and Palmer, MA and Brewer, N, Pitfalls in using eyewitness confidence to diagnose the accuracy of an individual identification decision, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 25, (3) pp. 147-165. ISSN 1076-8971 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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© 2019 American Psychological Association

DOI: doi:10.1037/law0000203


Recently, a number of authors have made strong claims about the likely very high accuracy of identifications made with very high levels of confidence when identification testing conditions are pristine. We argue that although these strong claims about the confidence–accuracy relation are justifiable at the aggregate level, they may be misleading when attempting to evaluate the accuracy of an individual identification. First, we consider the recent evolution of conclusions drawn about the confidence–accuracy relationship, and the implications of these conclusions for the utility of confidence for evaluating individual identifications. Next, we highlight factors that may undermine the generalizability of conclusions at the aggregate level to individual cases. Finally, we present reanalyses of published data demonstrating conditions where conclusions based on aggregate data would be misleading for practitioners evaluating an individual identification. We maintain that, when appropriately collected, confidence can be a useful guide when assessing the reliability of identifications. However, we argue that when police and triers of fact attempt to evaluate the likely accuracy of an individual identification decision it will often be impossible to know if one of the key prerequisites for assessing whether a high confidence identification indicates an accurate identification - namely, a fair lineup - has been met.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:confidence, accuracy, eyewitness identification
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Applied and developmental psychology
Research Field:Forensic psychology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in psychology
UTAS Author:Sauer, JD (Associate Professor Jim Sauer)
UTAS Author:Palmer, MA (Associate Professor Matt Palmer)
ID Code:133537
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:28
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2019-07-01
Last Modified:2021-01-29
Downloads:45 View Download Statistics

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