Showup Study #1: An examinations of showups in the field: What we cannot learn from lab studies.
In the first of these studies identifications done in the real world field conditions were compared to a lab condition where participants were debriefed that the theft was staged before the showup, and law enforcement was not involved. Results of this study revealed that false identifications were nearly 300% higher in the field condition compared to the lab simulation (39% vs. 13.2%). When witnesses were properly admonished the differences were even more distinct, and IDs in the real world field conditions were 400x higher than in the lab simulation (28% vs. 7%). These data show that the risk to an innocent citizen of being detained and presented at a showup are far greater than previously thought.
Showups Study #2: Pre-admonition suggestion in Showups done in the field
The basic remedy used to combat the inherent suggestiveness of showups in the field is to admonish the witness, and there is ample data showing that using unbiased pre-identification instructions can reduce choosing in target-absent conditions (Steblay, 1997). But what happens when a witness is exposed to suggestive information prior to being properly instructed? Quivillian et al., (2012) proposed that suggestions given to a witness prior to being admonished could mitigate the effect of the pre-lineup admonition. Quivillian et al., found that pre-admonition suggestions indicating that the perpetrator was present in a six-pack increased choosing in target-absent conditions, and increased confidence in the selections made. The current study sought to extend this work on pre-admonition suggestion to showups, and examined how being exposed to suggestive information indicating that the police believed they had the right guy could influence choosing and confidence. To examine this issue 298 participants attended an experiment on memory and personality. Groups of six participants were escorted to a room where the confederate/thief drew attention to himself by taking a phone call during the consent procedures, and then later absconded with a laptop computer. The police were called, and a uniformed officer responded. Soon after arriving at the scene, the officer received a radio-dispatch. His radio was set to high volume to make sure all participants heard the message clearly. The dispatcher either stated that the Sherriff had “…detained an individual who matched the description of the thief…” (Control condition), or that they had “…caught the guy…” (Suggestion condition), and instructed the officer to bring the witnesses down to the loading dock to make an identification. The officer then escorted the witnesses to meet with Sheriff’s deputies who read the department’s standard admonition and then had them view an innocent suspect, in handcuffs, accompanied by an officer near a patrol car. The officer also obtained confidence ratings. The innocent suspect was either similar in height and weight to the thief or approximately six-inches taller and 50-pounds heavier. Otherwise, they wore similar clothes, and a similar baseball cap. Results: When the data were collapsed across levels of similarity, and the radio-dispatch was heard (pre-admonition suggestion), an expected criterion shift was observed, and False identifications of the innocent suspect increased significantly (Suggestion=54.5%, No-Suggestion=36.4%). False identifications of the innocent suspect were greatest in the pre-admonition suggestion condition where similarity was high (65%), and remained relatively elevated in the suggestive condition when similarity was low (45.8%). As expected, when data were collapsed across suggestive and non-suggestive conditions, false identification were was highest when the suspect was similar to the thief in terms of height and weight (high-similarity = 56.4%, low-similarity = 30.9%).
Click on this link to see the APLS power point presentation: Eisen, M. L., Pratt, S., Olaguez, A, Orazco, M. (2015) A controlled investigation of showups in real-world conditions: The effects of similarity and preadmonition suggestion. Annual Conference of the American Psychology and Law Society, San Diego, CA.