Applied Cognitive Psychology

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A method for increasing empirical discriminability and eliminating top‐row preference in photo arrays

Summary It is important to consider the two parameters of signal detection theory, discriminability and response bias, when evaluating eyewitness identification from simultaneous lineups. On the basis of 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 (2 × 3) 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.

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