Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $25,000)
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction in the United States, yet eyewitness testimony is still heavily relied upon for solving crimes and prosecuting suspects. One problem with eyewitness testimony is that witnesses are susceptible to influence from the post-identification feedback feedback commonly given to witnesses after they have made an identification. Recent research shows that confirming post-identification feedback eliminates the abilities of evaluators to differentiate between accurate and inaccurate eyewitness testimony because feedback disproportionately inflates the believability of inaccurate eyewitnesses. The present research proposes a test of a novel safeguard video recording of eyewitnesses pre-feedback statements to both protect against and correct for the effects of feedback on evaluations of eyewitness testimony.
The study will use a randomized experimental design that will involve a total of 360 undergraduate student participants. The study will occur in two phases over a nine month academic year. During the witnessing phase, participant-witnesses (n=180) will make accurate or mistaken identifications from a lineup. Some witnesses will then provide video-recorded pre-feedback statements about the witnessed event and their identification decision whereas other witnesses will not provide any pre-feedback statements. Witnesses will then be randomly assigned to receive confirming feedback or no feedback. Following the feedback manipulation, all witnesses will be videotaped during a testimony interview in which they are asked about what they witnessed and who they identified. During the second phase of the experiment (the evaluator phase) a new sample of participant-evaluators (n=180) will view the testimony tapes and make judgments about the accuracy and persuasiveness of the eyewitnesses testimonies. Some evaluators will view the eyewitnesses videotaped pre-feedback statements in addition to the eyewitnesses testimonies, whereas some evaluators will view the eyewitnesses testimonies only.
The hypothesis is that collecting pre-feedback statements from eyewitnesses will inoculate them against inflation from confirming feedback (inoculation hypothesis) and that showing the witnesses pre-feedback statements to evaluators will restore evaluators abilities to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate eyewitness testimony even after feedback was delivered (antidote hypothesis). Multilevel analyses will be conducted using SAS PROC GLIMMIX for both hypotheses.