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J Soc Psychol. 1998 Dec;138(6):710-23.

Intergroup biases and eyewitness testimony.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Sweden.


The study examined how the in-group/out-group status of a perpetrator of a distinctly violent crime might influence an eyewitness's evaluation of his behavior and a witness's performance in an identification task. Immigrant and Swedish students saw a film showing a simulated robbery, with an immigrant or a Swede as the perpetrator. Results showed that both groups evaluated an ethnically dissimilar perpetrator as more culpable than an ethnically similar perpetrator. In a line-up task, both immigrant and Swedish participants mistakenly identified an innocent immigrant more often than an innocent Swede. Participants' biased evaluations of the perpetrator are discussed in terms of cognitive and motivational mechanisms. Expectations regarding the typical ethnicity of a perpetrator of this type of crime are suggested to account for the findings of the line-up task.

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