Confirming feedback following a mistaken identification impairs memory for the culprit

Laura Smalarz, Gary L. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

This research examined whether confirming postidentification feedback following a mistaken identification impairs eyewitness memory for the original culprit. We also examined whether the degree of similarity between a mistakenly identified individual and the actual culprit plays a role in memory impairment. Participant-witnesses (N = 145) made mistaken identifications from a "similar" or a "dissimilar" culprit-absent photo lineup. The similar lineup contained individuals who were similar in appearance to the actual culprit and the dissimilar lineup contained individuals who were dissimilar in appearance to the actual culprit. After their identifications, witnesses were given confirming feedback ("Good job! You identified the suspect.") or no feedback. The experimenter then feigned having accidentally given the witnesses the wrong photo lineup. After telling witnesses to disregard whatever they saw in the first lineup, the experimenter gave witnesses the "correct" (culprit-present) lineup and told the witnesses to do their best to identify the culprit. Identifying a dissimilar individual and receiving confirming feedback after a misidentification had independent impairing effects on memory for the original culprit. Results extend the traditional conceptualization of the postidentification feedback effect by showing that confirming feedback not only distorts witnesses' retrospective self-reports, but it also impairs recognition memory for the culprit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-292
Number of pages10
JournalLaw and human behavior
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • eyewitness identification
  • eyewitness memory
  • memory impairment
  • postevent suggestion
  • postidentification feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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