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Pre-Feedback Eyewitness Statements: Proposed Safeguard Against Feedback Effects on Evaluations of Eyewitness Testimony

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2015
90 pages
This study tested a novel safeguard intended to correct the effects of an investigator's complimenting responses to an eyewitness who has just made a positive identification of a suspect, since recent research has shown that such compliments given to the eyewitness after his/her identification tend to reinforce the eyewitness' commitment to the identification and impede subsequent efforts to evaluate the strength and accuracy of the identification.

The importance of this research is established by noting that mistaken, but highly confident, eyewitness testimony has been used to convict innocent people in approximately 220 criminal cases in the United States. In the current research, some eyewitnesses, but not others, were asked a series of testimony-relevant questions about the witnessed event and their identification decision prior to receiving complimentary responses on an identification or no responses at all from those managing the identification. The eyewitness statements prior to any complimentary response were videotaped and subsequently assessed by evaluators as to the accuracy of eyewitnesses' identifications. This study determined that videotaping an eyewitness identification prior to any complimentary response to the identification did not protect against or correct for the effects of subsequent compliments on evaluations of eyewitness identifications. Still, this research has theoretical value, because it fuels a number of questions that have the potential to further develop an understanding of how post-identification compliments influence eyewitnesses. The most promising path for future research involves determining whether the conditions under which compliments are given the eyewitness identification do not impair a subsequent evaluation of the strength and accuracy of an eyewitness' testimony. 3 figures, 72 references, and appended experimental design and still photos from the witnessed event

Date Published: December 1, 2015