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A “middle road” approach to bridging the basic-applied divide in eyewitness identification research



Over a century of laboratory research has explored the mechanisms of memory using a variety of paradigms and stimuli. In addition, many researchers have taken up Neisser’s (1978) challenge to examine memory under real-world conditions, most prominently including the eyewitness identification problem. Unfortunately, these “high road” and “low road” perspectives rarely communicate with one another, with the eyewitness field largely adopting an approach that focuses on methodological adherence to conditions that mimic real-world situations. In the current paper we advocate for a “middle road” approach that includes a focus on theory development, an emphasis on the interaction between field and laboratory research, and the implementation of convergent approaches to investigating eyewitness identification. We argue that the field would be invigorated by such an approach, with benefits accruing to our understanding of eyewitness identification and to the development of procedures that will ultimately improve eyewitness accuracy.
A ‘Middle Road’ Approach to Bridging the Basic–Applied
Divide in Eyewitness Identification Research
Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA
Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, USA
Over a century of laboratory research has explored the mechanisms of memory using a variety of
paradigms and stimuli. In addition, many researchers have taken up Neisser’s challenge to examine
memory under real-world conditions, most prominently including the eyewitness identification
problem. Unfortunately, these ‘high road’ and ‘low road’ perspectives rarely communicate with one
another, with the eyewitness field largely adopting an approach that focusses on methodological
adherence to conditions that mimic real-world situations. In the current paper we advocate for a
‘middle road’ approach that includes a focus on theory development, an emphasis on the interaction
between field and laboratory research and the implementation of convergent approaches to
investigating eyewitness identification. We argue that the field would be invigorated by such an
approach, with benefits accruing to our understanding of eyewitness identification and to the
development of procedures that will ultimately improve eyewitness accuracy. Copyright #2008
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
‘Every science considers the single facts in their relation to other facts, works toward
connections, towards generalities. Science means connection and nothing else...
Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg (1899, p. 11)
Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg was profoundly interested in applying insights from psychology to
solve practical problems, including issues related to the use of eyewitness testimony.
Furthermore, as illustrated above, he clearly felt that the pursuit of generalizability and
theory building were important goals of the scientific process. We agree with this
sentiment, and argue that the eyewitness identification field, despite its many successes, has
made less theoretical progress than it should have in understanding the psychological
processes that underlie performance. We believe this lack of progress has come because the
field has often neglected to incorporate insights from basic research and theory, has used an
overly strict ecological validity criterion for determining the relevance of extant research
for understanding eyewitness identification and has focussed on demonstrating empirical
facts rather than identifying more general theoretical mechanisms (for discussion on this
Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 22: 779–787 (2008)
Published online in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/acp.1482
*Correspondence to: Sean M. Lane, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
70803, USA. E-mail:
Correspondence to: Christian A. Meissner, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso,
TX 79968, USA. E-mail:
Copyright #2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
latter point, see Turtle, Read, Lindsay, & Brimacombe, 2008). In the current paper, we
discuss these issues and propose to overcome these problems by increasing the connection
between basic and applied research.
The contemporary study of eyewitness identification arose concurrently with an increased
general interest in studying real-world memory problems the Practical Aspects of Memory
movement (e.g. Cohen, 1989). In a widely cited talk and series of papers, Neisser (1978, 1982)
characterized two modes of research: the ‘low road’ and the ‘high road’, with the former being
conducted in more ecologically realistic situations and the latter conducted in more
well-controlled laboratory situations. Furthermore, he argued that researchers should embrace
more low road research because little that had been learned from high road research was
useful for shedding light on important real-world problems. Although this particular point has
certainly been debated (see e.g. Banaji & Crowder, 1989, 1994 and subsequent commentary),
it is clear that researchers have heeded the call to conduct more ecological research, whether
by actually conducting field research or by ensuring that research designs contain more
features of the target ecological context. Although we believe the eyewitness identification
field has benefited from increased applied research, we think that Neisser’s exhortation may
also have had unintended negative effects.
Despite the impressive progress of the eyewitness identification field in characterizing
important factors that impact real-world witnesses (e.g. lineup instructions, lineup
procedures or the similarity of lineup members) and techniques that can potentially reduce
identification errors (e.g. Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence, 1999), there
has been little progress in developing a more general theory of eyewitness identification
(for an exception, see Clark, 2003, 2008). Although there may be multiple reasons for this
lack of progress (e.g. the complexity of possible variables), we believe that a primary
reason is that the field has proceeded rather independently from related developments in
more basic research on cognitive (e.g. face identification) and social psychological
processes. In many ways this is understandable, as it appears to us that researchers in the
field have often adopted a ‘traditionalist’ approach that sees the eyewitness identification
task as unique or special in terms of its characteristics. Because of the uniqueness of the
task, it is also often assumed (implicitly or explicitly) that research using tasks that do not
share the traditional ecological features of eyewitness identification are therefore largely
irrelevant (e.g. Ebbesen & Konecni, 1996). In contrast, we argue that although the
eyewitness identification task has some unique characteristics, the cognitive and social
psychological processes that are brought to bear on this task are not unique. Thus, theory
and data from basic research on these processes are relevant to our understanding of
eyewitness identification (see also Brewer & Weber, 2008; Turtle et al., 2008). In short, we
argue that the field’s largely traditionalist approach has limited its potential for theoretical
The problem described in the previous section is not exclusive to the eyewitness
identification field. It has often been argued that the use of converging operations is critical
Copyright #2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 22: 779–787 (2008)
DOI: 10.1002/acp
780 S. M. Lane and C. A. Meissner
for the advancement of scientific understanding (e.g. Garner, Hake, & Eriksen, 1956). This
research strategy is typically described as the use of different tasks or measures to study a
phenomenon with the goal of discriminating between alternative hypotheses. Such
diversity of tasks allows scientists to overcome the weaknesses of any given task, and to the
extent that results are similar across tasks, confidence in one’s conclusions can be increased
(e.g. Campbell & Fiske, 1959). We believe such a strategy is efficacious, and also use this
term more broadly to apply not only to the use of multiple tasks, but also to multiple
complementary methodological approaches or stimuli. Conversely, we refer to the
situation where a single task, approach or type of stimuli has been overemphasized as
methodological fixation. For the same reasons that converging operations can be a fruitful
approach to understanding a phenomenon, the lack of converging operations has the
potential to limit progress in a given field (similarly, see mono-method or mono-operation
bias, Cook & Campbell, 1979).
A historic example of methodological fixation comes from early research on semantic
memory. One goal of this line of research was to understand how general knowledge
concepts are represented and retrieved from long-term memory. For approximately a
decade, research in the area relied almost exclusively on the sentence verification task (e.g.
Collins & Quillian, 1969). In this task, participants were presented with sentences like ‘Is a
chicken a bird’? and reaction time was recorded as the dependent measure. Although a
number of theoretical models were posited based upon these studies, later research
suggested that performance was largely a consequence of the difficulty of the decision task
following retrieval (e.g. McCloskey & Glucksberg, 1979). Consequently, it was generally
recognized that the field became overly dependent on a single task instead of using
converging tasks to understand the relevant psychological processes. Thus, in many ways,
using a single approach limited what researchers were able to learn about semantic
Much in the same way that reliance upon the sentence verification task inhibited progress
toward a general understanding of semantic memory, we believe that the traditionalist
approach of focussing on the uniqueness of the eyewitness identification task has limited
our field’s development. If not the traditionalist approach, what do we propose as an
option? Our alternative is not to replace it exclusively with laboratory-based (‘high road’)
research or to suggest that researchers should focus on collecting data in real-world
eyewitness situations (although others have made this ‘low road’ argument; e.g. Yuille,
1993). Rather, we think that much is to be gained from a ‘middle road’ approach that
bridges basic and applied research.
For example, using a diversity of theoretical and
empirical approaches allows for the opportunity to overcome limitations of any single
approach. In the context of eyewitness identification research, this would include both
ecological (e.g. field) studies and basic research that examine psychological processes that
are deployed in eyewitness identification. Critically, this approach also assumes a mutually
beneficial interaction between the two types of research and researchers (rather than the
more common independence, or even antagonism between basic and applied researchers).
We note that a related ‘winding road’ research strategy has been previously articulated (Mathews & Lane, 2006).
However, there are some differences, and our middle road approach is more elaborated.
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DOI: 10.1002/acp
Bridging the basic–applied divide 781
Although it is often emphasized that basic research may be applied to real-world settings or
that applied research can provide ideas that can be tested in the lab, we would argue that
real-world settings (or simply research with more ecological features) are ideal for testing
the generalizability of more basic theories of cognition. Thus, we see the interaction
between basic and applied research as leading to a more vibrant field and to deeper
interactions between the various areas of psychology and/or other allied sciences. More
specifically, we see this approach as a means of making considerable theoretical and
applied progress in the field of eyewitness identification.
We believe there are three basic elements to a middle road approach: (a) a focus on
theory development, (b) interaction between field and laboratory research and (c) the use of
convergent approaches to investigate eyewitness identification. Below, we discuss the
elements of this approach in greater detail and then provide examples of research that
exemplify some or all of these elements.
Focus on theory development
The primary goal of a middle road approach is the development of a comprehensive theory
of eyewitness identification. Achieving such a goal has the potential for important scientific
and practical advances (see also Brewer & Weber, 2008; Brewer, Weber, & Semmler,
2007). At one level, this focus lends greater coherence to the scientific enterprise than one
based primarily on testing individual real-world phenomena. Research designed to
discriminate between various theoretical accounts (particularly theories whose assump-
tions are well defined, see Clark, 2008) is much more likely to lead to progress in
understanding the processes underlying eyewitness identification than a more piecemeal
approach. Furthermore, we agree with Turtle et al. (2008) that a focus on processes rather
than phenomena can help researchers better communicate the field’s findings to the legal
community (including jurors). Importantly, we believe that major advances in applications
for eyewitness identification are unlikely to come about absent related theoretical
advances. We also believe that a comprehensive theory of eyewitness identification is the
appropriate answer to critics of eyewitness memory research who argue that research
results are irrelevant unless they precisely replicate real-world conditions (see Clark’s
(2008) one-legged, six-toed Scotsman example). A well-validated theory allows one to
make reasonable predictions about eyewitness memory even for specific situations that
have never been encountered in the laboratory or in field research.
Interaction between field and laboratory research
As noted above, this approach acknowledges the importance of research that ranges from
very basic to highly ecological (e.g. Hermann & Gruneberg, 1993). The interaction that we
propose is both philosophical and literal. At a philosophical level, there is a need to take
seriously research that is conducted across the methodological spectrum, using different
tasks, stimuli, etc. For example, field studies can provide important information about the
specific contextual variables operating in real-world identifications, while laboratory
paradigms allow us to investigate the potential interactions between such variables.
Furthermore, we would argue that much can be gained from conceptualizing real-world
behaviour (like eyewitness identification) in terms of basic cognitive and social
psychological processes, as well as thinking about how basic psychological theories
can apply to the constraints of real-world situations. With this in mind, we suggest that
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782 S. M. Lane and C. A. Meissner
graduate training in Psychology and Law should include sufficient exposure to basic
theories of perceptual, cognitive and social psychological processes (including more recent
neuroscientific approaches) and the broad array of research methodologies inherent to
these domains.
At a more literal level, the knowledge obtained by research across the spectrum must be
shared in ways that allow for theory development. In some cases, such interaction can take
place within an individual researcher (e.g. studying a phenomenon in the field and then in
the laboratory). In other cases, research might be conducted by different individuals, and
the interaction occurs through reading one another’s journal articles, conference
presentations, etc. We do acknowledge that such interaction can be difficult. Basic and
field researchers often publish in different journals, attend different conferences, and thus
rarely have the opportunity to discuss the issues of interest. It is challenging enough to keep
up with the great volume of research in one’s own field, let alone learn about other fields
that have different goals or use different terminology. Yet, this problem is not unique to our
field as seen by the increased emphasis on interdisciplinary research in the behavioural
sciences (e.g. Cacioppo, 2007). Despite these challenges, we believe the benefits of such
interaction greatly outweigh the costs. Thus, we believe that encouraging researchers from
across the spectrum to work together to tackle the eyewitness identification ‘problem’ (e.g.
through sessions at conferences, special issues of journals, workshops on new techniques,
etc.) should be a major goal of the field.
Use of convergent approaches
As we have discussed, we believe that there is strength in using a broad array of theoretical
and methodological approaches to understand the cognitive and social processes that
underlie eyewitness identification. Such an approach not only allows for firmer conclusions
about the phenomena under study (i.e. when conclusions are similar across tasks, stimuli,
etc.), but also provides a stronger foundation for theory building and testing. Although one
could argue that a variety of approaches are used in the eyewitness identification literature,
the issue of ecological validity is sometimes used to argue for the irrelevance of research
that employs tasks that do not share all the characteristics of real-world eyewitness
identification (e.g. Ebbesen & Konecni, 1996). While ecological validity can be used as a
valid basis for criticism, we think that its use as a blanket criticism is unproductive and
more harmful than helpful to the field. We argue instead that the core issue, regardless of
whether the research was conducted in field or laboratory settings, is generalizability
(Banaji & Crowder, 1989, 1994). Even field studies can lack generalizability if the situation
studied is a unique one, and regardless of context, studies that lack internal validity
preclude a consideration of the generality of the findings. Thus, in many circumstances,
less ecologically valid studies can contribute more to producing a credible theory of
eyewitness identification than other, more ecologically valid ones. If the goal is to
understand the psychological processes that underlie eyewitness identification, we see no
principled reason why studies of face or word recognition, or those that examine lineup
recognition of non-facial stimuli (e.g. cars, boats, words), should be excluded from
consideration merely because they are not representative of typical eyewitness memory
situations or stimuli. As we have discussed, it is our contention that the processes
underlying eyewitness identification are not special, although the manner in which such
processes are deployed can certainly be influenced by the constraints of the task. Thus, such
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Bridging the basic–applied divide 783
studies can play a role in theory development, as can studies that share more features with
real-life eyewitness situations.
The approach we have outlined shares some similarities with the ‘in vivo/in vitro’ approach
advocated by Kevin Dunbar (described in Dunbar & Blanchette, 2001). Dunbar studies the
comprehension and production of analogies in both naturalistic (in vivo) and laboratory
(in vitro) contexts. For example, he has examined the use of analogies by researchers in
molecular biology laboratories and in political discourse that appeared in Canadian
newspaper articles. Doing so has allowed him to uncover potential variables (e.g.
generation) that affect the retrieval of analogies that he has subsequently tested in a
laboratory setting. Although there are differences between the approaches (e.g. our focus
on inter-researcher collaboration and the field as a whole), our ‘middle road’ approach
shares his emphasis on theory development and the need for rich interplay between applied
and basic research.
Eyewitness research examples
Within the broader field of psychology and law, there are some areas or individual
investigators which have successfully employed some or all of the characteristics described
above. For example, the field of eyewitness suggestibility was influenced both by the
situations faced by real-world witnesses and by basic memory theory. In a typical study,
participants view a mock crime, read a narrative or answer questions about the event that
include misleading information, and are later tested on their memory for the event (e.g.
Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978). A consistent finding is that participants choose or report the
misleading information when tested on their memory for the event. Furthermore, much
research in the area has focussed on testing theoretical mechanisms that were taken from
more basic research on memory. Prominent examples of proposed mechanisms include
overwriting (e.g. Loftus et al., 1978), inaccessibility/blocking (e.g. Christiaansen &
Ochalek, 1983; Eakin, Schreiber, & Sergent-Marshall, 2003) and source monitoring errors
(e.g. Lane, Roussel, Villa, & Morita, 2007; Lindsay & Johnson, 1989; Zaragoza & Lane,
1994). Thus, researchers in the area did not think it necessary to posit a specialized theory
of eyewitness suggestibility, but rather focussed on established fundamental mechanisms
of memory.
We also note that the results of basic research on memory have contributed to successful
real-world legal applications. One prominent example is ‘the Cognitive Interview’ (e.g.
Fisher & Geiselman, 1992). The techniques which make up the interview are motivated by
findings from basic research including context reinstatement (e.g. Tulving & Thomson,
1973) and varied retrieval (e.g. Anderson & Pichert, 1978). Research examining the
efficacy of the Cognitive Interview has generally found increased recall of event detail with
little or no cost to accuracy (e.g. Fisher, Geiselman, & Amador, 1989). What is noteworthy
is that this is not merely a situation where basic research informed practice; rather, these
researchers also conducted an intensive examination of how investigators typically
interview witnesses in the field (for a review, see Fisher & Schreiber, 2007). Thus, the
strength of the Cognitive Interview came from the interplay between basic theory and
real-world application.
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784 S. M. Lane and C. A. Meissner
Within our own field of eyewitness identification, we believe that several examples
of ‘middle road’ approaches have been undertaken in recent years. For example,
Clark (2003, 2008) has developed a computational model of eyewitness identification that
relies upon memory theory from a basic research tradition. Similarly, Gronlund’s (2005)
SUSPECTS framework has been used to account for performance in sequential lineups.
Within our own laboratories, we have also begun exploring the role of basic memory and
decision-making theory in eyewitness identification tasks. Meissner, Tredoux, Parker, and
MacLin (2005) introduced a ‘lineup recognition’ paradigm to examine signal detection
perspectives on lineup identification, as well as the role of dual-process theories in
predicting performance across various manipulations (e.g., Yonelinas, 2002). This
paradigm differs from the more traditional eyewitness identification task by providing
multiple identification opportunities to participants across both target-present and
target-absent arrays, yet in doing so it also provides an opportunity to test theory using a
variety of process measures. The paradigm has been used to examine lineup presentation
factors (Meissner et al., 2005), carryover effects from show-ups to lineups (Haw,
Dickinson, & Meissner, 2007), the cross-race effect (Evans, Marcon, & Meissner, in press;
Jackiw, Arbuthnott, Pfeifer, Marcon, & Meissner, 2008) and the relationship between
memory for contextual details and identification accuracy (Lane, Groft, Roussel, &
Calamia, 2008).
In closing, we share Mu
¨nsterberg’s belief that scientific endeavours should focus on the
connections between facts, methods and theories. Connections between research on
eyewitness identification and related theory in cognitive and social psychology have been
few in number, despite the fact that these fields are quite mature theoretically and
methodologically, and thus potentially have much to offer. Furthermore, there has often
been a reluctance to acknowledge the relevance of research that utilizes stimuli or tasks
which are thought to be less ecologically valid. We believe that such attitudes have slowed
the theoretical progress of an otherwise vibrant and important field. In the end, we believe a
‘middle road’ approach that provides a central role for theory building and testing can be a
fruitful one for the study of eyewitness identification. This approach assumes that the
eyewitness identification task is not special in terms of the psychological processes
deployed nor is it entirely unique in its characteristics. In addition, the use of converging
methodologies, tasks and stimuli can only strengthen the field’s ability to offer sound
conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, this approach sees basic and applied research as
mutually beneficial. Thus, the goal of achieving a comprehensive scientific theory of
eyewitness identification is also a path toward new and groundbreaking applications that
promise to increase the accuracy of eyewitnesses.
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Bridging the basic–applied divide 787
... Although this repeated measures design sacrifices ecological validity, it allowed us to collect sufficient data (i.e., each participant made 16 identification decisions, resulting in a total of more than 10,000 data points) to provide stable estimates of the confidence-accuracy relation for calibration analyses. We therefore view the current study, which was designed to bridge a basic and applied research focus (what Lane & Meissner, 2008, call a "middle road approach"), as complementary to the existing literature. To the extent that we find similar results as past studies, our findings provide evidence of convergent validity across methodological approaches. ...
... However, our repeated-measures design came with a cost, as it required us to sacrifice the ecological validity associated with a standard eyewitness paradigm, in which a single data point is collected per participant. Although similar examples of "middle road approaches" (Lane & Meissner, 2008) have been successfully implemented and advocated for by various psychology and law researchers (e.g., see Evans et al., 2009;Haw et al., 2007;Jackiw et al., 2008;Meissner et al., 2005;Weber & Brewer, 2003), our methodology does limit our ability to generalize our findings to real-world eyewitnesses. We therefore view the contribution of the current study as complementary to existing studies on the topic, providing convergent evidence that confidence assessment method has little effect on the confidence-accuracy relationship, whether assessed using a standard eyewitness paradigm (Mansour, 2020;Smalarz et al., 2021), or using a basic face recognition paradigm (current study). ...
... Although achieving an optimal balance between basic and applied psycholegal research is challenging, both are important. Research that prizes ecological validity at the expense of theory testing and methodological innovation disserves the science and, in the long run, provides a weak foundation on which to base the very policy and procedural changes it seeks to advance (Lane & Meissner, 2008). Instead, we argue that psycholegal research should operate within a translational research framework, seeking to inform legal policies, practices, and procedures by systematically grounding our scholarship in theory and demonstrated efficacy before moving it toward interventions and practices that are evaluated in real-world effectiveness studies. ...
... Further, the authors suggest that an assessment of the utility (findings help you do things), novelty (findings help you do new things), and generality (findings apply to diverse contexts) of a literature's contributions could support an assessment of application and real-world relevance. As echoed by Lane and Meissner (2008), research has the greatest potential for successful application when it has been situated and validated based upon psychological theory, has been tested using a diverse array of methodological approaches, and has been examined in both in vitro (laboratory) and in vivo (naturalistic) contexts that ensure effective translation of the available science (Dunbar & Blanchette, 2001; see Diamond, 1997, for a similar distinction). ...
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Psycholegal research is, by design, a field devoted to evaluating and addressing issues that directly affect the justice system. At the same time, many scholars in the field have experienced first-hand the frustrations of bridging the divide between research and policy or practice. In this chapter we discuss key issues and challenges involved in bridging this divide by focusing on a number of cardinal questions: Why influence policy? When, where, and how might we do so? How much evidence must there be before adopting a particular policy? And what policies can (or should) we address? We argue that psycholegal research should operate within a translational research framework, and we encourage scholars to communicate their findings to a broader audience, spend time with the professionals for whom their research is intended, introduce students to best practices for conducting policy-relevant research, and reconsider how we evaluate one another’s contributions in the academy.
... important applied question of how to determine the reliability of children's lineup identification decisions and how techniques from the applied literature can be used to further our understanding about memory monitoring. With greater communication and better integrated research approaches across fields, inconsistent findings could have been resolved more quickly, and basic science findings that have been limited to laboratory settings could have already been extended to have impact in applied settings (for similar ideas see also Gronlund & Benjamin, 2018;Lane & Meissner, 2008). ...
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Children are frequently witnesses of crime. In the witness literature and legal systems, children are often deemed to have unreliable memories. Yet, in the basic developmental literature, young children can monitor their memory. To address these contradictory conclusions, we reanalyzed the confidence-accuracy relationship in basic and applied research. Confidence provided considerable information about memory accuracy, from at least age 8, but possibly younger. We also conducted an experiment where children in young (4-6 years), middle (7-9 years), and late (10-17 years) childhood (N = 2,205) watched a person in a video and then identified that person from a police lineup. Children provided a confidence rating (an explicit judgment) and used an interactive lineup-in which the lineup faces can be rotated-and we analyzed children's viewing behavior (an implicit measure of metacognition). A strong confidence-accuracy relationship was observed from age 10 and an emerging relationship from age 7. A constant likelihood ratio signal-detection model can be used to understand these findings. Moreover, in all ages, interactive viewing behavior differed in children who made correct versus incorrect suspect identifications. Our research reconciles the apparent divide between applied and basic research findings and suggests that the fundamental architecture of metacognition that has previously been evidenced in basic list-learning paradigms also underlies performance on complex applied tasks. Contrary to what is believed by legal practitioners, but similar to what has been found in the basic literature, identifications made by children can be reliable when appropriate metacognitive measures are used to estimate accuracy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... However, from the beginning there was a general lack of theoretical guidance (Bornstein and Penrod 2008;Gronlund and Benjamin 2018). This has resulted in calls for more eyewitness ID research undergirded by cognitive theory generally (e.g., Dianiska et al. 2020;Lane and Meissner 2008), and signal detection theory specifically (SDT; Green and Swets 1966;Wixted and Mickes 2012). Our goal is to test a quantitative theory based in SDT known as diagnostic feature-detection theory (DFT; Wixted and Mickes 2014). ...
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The diagnostic feature-detection theory (DFT) of eyewitness identification is based on facial information that is diagnostic versus non-diagnostic of suspect guilt. It primarily has been tested by discounting non-diagnostic information at retrieval, typically by surrounding a single suspect showup with good fillers to create a lineup. We tested additional DFT predictions by manipulating the presence of facial information (i.e., the exterior region of the face) at both encoding and retrieval with a large between-subjects factorial design (N = 19,414). In support of DFT and in replication of the literature, lineups yielded higher discriminability than showups. In support of encoding specificity, conditions that matched information between encoding and retrieval were generally superior to mismatch conditions. More importantly, we supported several DFT and encoding specificity predictions not previously tested, including that (a) adding non-diagnostic information will reduce discriminability for showups more so than lineups, and (b) removing diagnostic information will lower discriminability for both showups and lineups. These results have implications for police deciding whether to conduct a showup or a lineup, and when dealing with partially disguised perpetrators (e.g., wearing a hoodie).
... Further, as we have argued elsewhere (Lane & Meissner, 2008), the eyewitness context affords scholars a 'middle road' to engage in the development and refinement of relevant theoretical frameworks. Herein, applied contexts afford important tests of theory, allowing us to understand their limits and necessary extensions. ...
... Nevertheless, despite methodical advances in theorizing (e.g., Brainerd & Reyna, 2005 ;Brewer, Weber, & Semmler, 2007 ;Clark, 2003 ), methodology ( Oriet & Fitzgerald, 2017 ), and measurement (e.g., Smith, Lampinen, Wells, Smalarz, & Mackovichova, 2019 ;Smith, Yang, & Wells, 2020 ), the fi eld has generally let methods, measures, and theories take a back seat to real-world considerations (for a discussion on this topic, see Lane & Meissner, 2008 ). This volume is an attempt to bridge this gap. ...
... Further, as we have argued elsewhere (Lane & Meissner, 2008), the eyewitness context affords scholars a 'middle road' to engage in the development and refinement of relevant theoretical frameworks. Herein, applied contexts afford important tests of theory, allowing us to understand their limits and necessary extensions. ...
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Eyewitness memory represents an inherently applied research problem, wherein scholars have increased public awareness of the problem of mistaken eyewitness identification and successfully developed policies and procedures that will increase the diagnostic value of an identification. At the same time, a tension has long existed between those that have urged the field to adopt this applied research focus and those that have advocated for a more theoretically informed research focus. In the current chapter, we offer a process perspective that engages psychological theories of memory, face recognition, social influence and decision processes that have been shown to influence eyewitness identifications. We propose that the eyewitness context affords scholars a 'middle road' to engage in the development and refinement of such theoretical frameworks. Greater attention to such a process perspective, rooted in the rich theoretical backdrops of cognitive and social psychology, is more likely to enhance our understanding of eyewitness decisions and lead to novel insights that leverage core processes.
... One popular recommendation, the sequential lineup, succeeded in yielding more conservative responding (e.g., Lindsay & Wells, 1985), but at the cost of worse discriminability (e.g., Carlson & Carlson, 2014;Dodson & Dobolyi, 2013;Mickes et al., 2012). One reason for these results is that the original recommendations were not grounded in well-specified cognitive theory (see, e.g., Lane & Meissner, 2008). The DFD hypothesis is grounded in Tversky's (1977) seminal (feature-based) contrast model of similarity/dissimilarity, and it is implemented in the same basic signal detection framework that has long been used to characterize recognition memory (Egan, 1958;Green & Swets, 1966). ...
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It is important to consider the two parameters of signal detection theory, discriminability and response bias, when evaluating eyewitness identification from simultaneous lineups. Based on the diagnostic feature‐detection hypothesis, we tested a method for increasing discriminability that encourages eyewitnesses to carefully rank each lineup member based on match to their memory for a perpetrator. This procedure increased empirical discriminability and also eliminated a response bias that is largely overlooked in the literature: Participants were biased to choose from the top row of the six‐pack (2x3) lineup commonly used in the United States. We argue that suspect position in the simultaneous lineup is an important variable to consider for researchers and the criminal justice system. We also encourage researchers to test the ranking procedure to determine if such a simple set of instructions could be utilized by police to help eyewitnesses correctly sort innocent versus guilty suspects.
... Testing laboratory-based theories under applied and ecologically valid conditions not only strengthens our theoretical understanding of how alcohol affects witness memory across a broad BAC spectrum but also helps ensure legal practitioners find applied value in scientific results (Carlson, 2013;Lane & Meissner, 2008). Therefore, the current study recruited participants from a bar setting in which they were voluntarily consuming alcohol. ...
Research shows that alcohol has a small and inconsistent effect on eyewitness recall and no effect on witnesses’ lineup decisions (for an exception see Dysart et al., 2002). Much of this literature has tested participants with low-to-moderate BAC levels and no study has directly examined how identification procedure impacts intoxicated witnesses’ decisions. In the present study, bar patrons’ (N=132) BAC levels were recorded before participating in a task. Midway through the task they were interrupted by an intruder. Participants then recalled the incident via a staged-interview and attempted to identify the intruder from a target-present or target-absent showup or lineup. While elevated BAC levels (as high as .24%) reduced the quantity and quality of information provided by witnesses, BAC had no effect on identification decisions regardless of format. Results highlight the importance of testing witness memory across a broad BAC spectrum and provide evidence that alcohol does not affect witnesses’ identification ability.
Objective: Eyewitness research has generally failed to show an association between eyewitnesses' pre-identification confidence in their ability to identify the perpetrator from a lineup and their subsequent identification accuracy. However, this observed lack of an association may be an artifact of methodologies in which witnesses experienced homogenous encoding conditions, which would tend to restrict the range of witnesses' confidence, thereby effectively weakening its relationship with subsequent identification accuracy. The current study examined whether pre-ID confidence is associated with subsequent lineup identification accuracy when there is variability in encoding conditions across witnesses. Hypotheses: We hypothesized (a) that there would be a significant relationship between pre-ID confidence and subsequent lineup identification accuracy across heterogeneous encoding conditions as assessed via calibration and CAC analysis; and (b) that witnesses' self-reports regarding their underlying memory strength would be at least as predictive of their subsequent lineup identification accuracy as pre-ID confidence. Method: Participant-witnesses (n = 203, Mage = 21.5; 71% Female; 67% Hispanic and/or Latino/a) viewed a mock crime video under varying encoding conditions and were asked to make both a pre-ID confidence assessment and memory strength assessment. After a brief filler task, participants made a lineup identification decision and made a post-ID confidence judgment. This process was then repeated 7 more times (producing 8 identification decisions per participant). Results: Calibration analyses indicated that pre-identification confidence was moderately calibrated with subsequent lineup identification accuracy across witnesses with heterogeneous encoding conditions. Furthermore, confidence-accuracy characteristic curves indicated that memory strength measures obtained from the witness immediately after the witnessed event were also predictive of subsequent identification accuracy. Conclusions: Pre-ID confidence and other memory strength judgments are in fact predictive of identification accuracy under the ecologically valid circumstance that there is variability in encoding across witnesses. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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Scientific knowledge has traditionally been advanced by individuals, and the reward structure in science reflects this tradition. Graduate students and junior faculty are admonished to establish their independence to show their genius, while avoiding any attributional ambiguity by collaborating with others. When a candidate for tenure fails to heed this advice and publishes instead as a member of a scientific team, faculty review committees and university administrators are inclined to raise questions about the candidate's contributions and scientific merit. Reading the work, speaking to the candidate, and attending carefully to their knowledge, methodological sophistication, innovativeness, and perspicacity is apparently not enough. This emphasis in academe on the solitary production of knowledge does not stop with tenure, either. Individual contributions are stressed in the determination of raises and in the selection of recipients for scientific awards ranging from early career contributions to the Nobel Prize (English, 2005). The landscape of science has changed, however. One major change, discussed in my previous column, is that there are now seven hub disciplines in science, one of which is psychological science. A second change is the increasing dominance of teams in the production of scientific knowledge, and the increasing impact of scientific discoveries that reflect the work of teams relative to individuals. That's right: The standard of the solitary scientist advancing knowledge against which psychological scientists are compared when doling out raises, tenure, status, and awards is outdated. Evidence for this claim, provided in a recent article by Wuchty, Jones, and Uzzi (2007), is surprisingly broad. Wuchty and colleagues examined all U.S. patents registered since 1975 and all research articles in the Institute for Scientific Information database, which dates back to 1955 for science and engineering, 1956 for the social sciences, and 1975 for the humanities. The dataset is large, consisting of 2.1 million patent records and 19.9 million research articles. When Wuchty and colleagues compared the percentage of papers published by solitary versus multiple authors over the past half century, they found that team science had increased in all areas: the social sciences (which includes psychology), other sciences and engineering, patents, and humanities. In 1955, for instance, only 17.5 percent of the papers published in the social sciences were by teams, whereas by 2000 this number had risen to 51.5 percent (Wuchty et al., 2007). Not surprisingly, larger teams of scientists were and continue to be involved in the production of knowledge in the sciences and engineering than in the social sciences. The rate of increase in the percentage of papers published by multiple authors over the past half century, however, is as high for the social sciences as it is for other sciences and engineering.
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The current research examined the potential benefit of context reinstatement on the cross-race effect in lineup identification. Participants viewed a series of own- and other-race faces and subsequently attempted identification of these faces from target-present and target-absent lineups. The traditional cross-race effect was found on measures of discrimination accuracy and response bias; however, discrimination accuracy across own- and other-race faces was shown to interact with context reinstatement such that only own-race faces benefited from the provision of contextual information. This finding is discussed in light of encoding-based theories of the cross-race effect, and with regard to the theoretical and practical limitations of mitigating the phenomenon at the time of identification.
( This partially reprinted article originally appeared in Psychological Review, 1899, Vol 6, 1–31. ) Discusses the limits of psychology, noting the movement of the discipline toward an expansionistic policy, a psychological imperialism dictating laws to the whole world of inner experiences. Münsterberg claimed that the historical development of the naturalistic sciences was showing the continuous tendency to take more of the properties of the physical object into the psychological object, that is, to show that the apparent over-individual qualities of the thing are qualities that depend on the individual. Thus, the whole manifoldness of experience was shifting into the sphere of ideas.
A new approach to the study of memory has emerged recently, characterized by a preoccupation with natural settings and with the immediate applicability of research findings. In contrast, the laboratory study of memory relies on experimental techniques for theory testing and is concerned with the discovery of generalizable principles. Although both approaches share the goal of generalizability, they differ sharply in the evaluation of how that goal is best accomplished. In this article, we criticize the everyday memory approach, arguing that ecologically valid methods do not ensure generalizability of findings. We discuss studies high in ecological validity of method but low in generalizability, and others low in ecological validity of method but high in generalizability. We solidly endorse the latter approach, believing that an obsession with ecological validity of method can compromise genuine accomplishments.
Current models of semantic memory assume that natural categories are well-defined. Specific predictions of two such models, the Smith, Shoben, and Rips (1974a) two-stage feature comparison model and the Glass and Holyoak (1974/75) ordered search model, were tested and disconfirmed in Experiment I. We propose an alternative model postulating fuzzy categories represented as sets of characteristic properties. This model, combined with a Bayesian decision process, accounts for the results of three additional experiments, as well as for the major findings in the semantic memory literature. We argue that people verify category membership statements by assessing similarity relations between concepts rather than by using information which logically specifies the truth value of the sentence. Our data also imply that natural categories are fuzzy rather than well-defined.
"This paper advocates a validational process utilizing a matrix of intercorrelations among tests representing at least two traits, each measured by at least two methods. Measures of the same trait should correlate higher with each other than they do with measures of different traits involving separate methods. Ideally, these validity values should also be higher than the correlations among different traits measure by the same method." Examples from the literature are described as well as problems in the application of the technique. 36 refs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)
The hypothesis that misleading suggestions can impair recollection was supported in a study inspired by L. L. Jacoby and C. M. Kelley's (unpublished manuscript) "logic of opposition" and D. S. Lindsay and M. K. Johnson's (see record 1989-38908-001) hypotheses about source memory. Tendency to report suggested details was set in opposition to ability to remember their source by telling Ss not to report anything from the narrative. Conditions were manipulated so that in the high- but not the low-discriminability condition it was easy to remember the suggestions and their source. At test, Ss were told (truthfully) that any information in the narrative relevant to the questions was wrong. Suggested details were more often reported on misled than control items in the low- but not the high-discriminability condition, yet suggestions impaired accurate recall of event details in both conditions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The broad aim of this chapter is to advocate for a more prominent role for theoretically motivated research into eyewitness identification processes. At this stage we are not offering a new theory or even a modification of an old one. Rather, to illustrate our case we focus on two broad issues within the field, pointing out what seem to us to be some important and largely neglected theoretical issues, and highlighting some of the practical consequences that might flow from their resolution. The first issue is the choosing behavior of eyewitnesses, with our initial concern being to understand what governs a witness's decision to make (rather than not make) a positive identification from a lineup. Here we hope not only to demonstrate that a theory of eyewitness choosing behavior is crucial for a detailed understanding of identification performance, but also to show that achieving this understanding will be a key step in developing the most effective lineup procedures. The second issue examined is eyewitness confidence, including the origins of confidence judgments, the confidence-accuracy relation, and the malleability of eyewitness confidence. Here we try to demonstrate how a deeper theoretical understanding of identification confidence will inform our understanding of witness behavior at and subsequent to the identification test, an understanding that can translate into distinct recommendations for the practical conduct of identification tests that may take us beyond existing guidelines. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)