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Identifying Perpetrators with Distinctive Features

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In this talk, I will present recent research on creating fair police lineups for suspects with distinctive features. Eyewitnesses’ descriptions of suspects often refer to distinctive facial features, such as tattoos or scars, and the police have to decide how best to create fair lineups in these circumstances. Informed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice and current police practice, I conducted an empirical evaluation of the different lineup techniques that investigators currently use. To ensure that a suspect does not stand out because of his distinctive feature, and also to extract more information from the eyewitness, the police either replicate the distinctive feature across all foils in the lineup or conceal the distinctive feature on the face of the suspect. These techniques were tested in computer-based laboratory experiments and real-world field experiments using both target-present and target-absent lineups. The results showed that compared to concealment, replication increases target identifications in target present lineups—in some cases by decreasing identifications of innocent people in target-absent lineups.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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