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39 Law & Hum. Behav. 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/lwhmbv39 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Human Behavior
2015. Vol. 39. No. 1. 1-14

© 2014 American Psychological Association
0147-7307/15/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/hb0000096

Double-Blind Photo Lineups Using Actual Eyewitnesses:
An Experimental Test of a Sequential Versus Simultaneous Lineup Procedure

Gary L. Wells
Iowa State University

Nancy K. Steblay
Augsburg College

Jennifer E. Dysart
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Eyewitnesses (494) to actual crimes in 4 police jurisdictions were randomly assigned to view simulta-
neous or sequential photo lineups using laptop computers and double-blind administration. The sequen-
tial procedure used in the field experiment mimicked how it is conducted in actual practice (e.g., using
a continuation rule, witness does not know how many photos are to be viewed, witnesses resolve any
multiple identifications), which is not how most lab experiments have tested the sequential lineup. No
significant differences emerged in rates of identifying lineup suspects (25% overall) but the sequential
procedure produced a significantly lower rate (11%) of identifying known-innocent lineup fillers than did
the simultaneous procedure (18%). The simultaneous/sequential pattern did not significantly interact with
estimator variables and no lineup-position effects were observed for either the simultaneous or sequential
procedures. Rates of nonidentification were not significantly different for simultaneous and sequential
but nonidentifiers from the sequential procedure were more likely to use the not sure response option
than were nonidentifiers from the simultaneous procedure. Among witnesses who made an identification,
36% (41% of simultaneous and 32% of sequential) identified a known-innocent filler rather than a
suspect, indicating that eyewitness performance overall was very poor. The results suggest that the
sequential procedure that is used in the field reduces the identification of known-innocent fillers, but the
differences are relatively small.
Keywords: eyewitness identification, sequential lineups, eyewitness error, eyewitness field experiments,
lineup position effects

There is a growing awareness in the general American popula-
tion that eyewitness identification evidence can be unreliable.
Much of this awareness can be traced to media treatments of
forensic DNA exonerations, for which over 75% of the first 250
were cases of mistaken eyewitness identification (Garrett, 2011).
Best-selling books such as Picking Cotton (Thompson-Canino,
Cotton, & Torneo, 2010), Jennifer Thompson-Canino, Ronald
This article was published Online First June 16, 2014.
Gary L. Wells, Psychology Department, Iowa State University; Nancy
K. Steblay, Psychology Department, Augsburg College; Jennifer E. Dysart,
Psychology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
This research was supported by grants from the Laura and John Arnold
Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the JEHT Foundation, and the
National Institute of Justice. The American Judicature Society, the Inno-
cence Project, and the Police Foundation were key partners in coordinating
this project. We thank the Austin (Texas) Police Department, the Travis
County (Texas) District Attorney's Office, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
(North Carolina) Police Department, the Mecklenburg County (North
Carolina) District Attorney's Office, the Tucson (Arizona) Police Depart-
ment, the Pima County (Arizona) Attorney's Office, the San Diego (Cal-
ifornia) Police Department, and the San Diego County (California) District
Attorney's Office for their cooperation and efforts in collecting these data.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Gary L.
Wells, Psychology Department, Iowa State University, West 112 Lago-
marcino Hall, Ames, IA 50021. E-mail: glwells@iastate.edu

Cotton, and Erin Torneo's story of mistaken identification and
redemption, have also had an impact. TV programs, such as CBS's
60 Minutes and MSNBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams, have
managed to not only present compelling personal stories of mis-
taken identification and wrongful conviction but also highlight the
psychological science that attempts to understand and control
eyewitness error. Entire states, such as New Jersey, Connecticut,
Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, as well as individual law
enforcement agencies, such as Boston, Minneapolis, St. Paul,
Dallas, and Denver, have made procedural reforms in how they
conduct lineups based on laboratory findings of researchers. In
2012, one of the most comprehensive treatments of eyewitness
identification by any court was conducted by the Oregon Supreme
Court in an attempt to blend the extant scientific literature with the
law (Oregon v. Lawson, 2012).
In the legal system, the problems with eyewitness identification
carry a nascent aura, as though they were only recently discovered.
Eyewitness identification scholars know otherwise, as the issues
predate even Munsterberg (1908). In fact, this journal (Law and
Human Behavior) published the first issue of a scholarly journal
devoted solely to eyewitness identification 33 years ago (Wells,
1980). The empirical literature has exploded since that time, much
of it focused on what can be done to improve the reliability of
eyewitness evidence, an approach commonly known as the
system-variable perspective (Wells, 1978).

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