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Law Hum Behav. 2005 Apr;29(2):151-72.

The target-to-foils shift in simultaneous and sequential lineups.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


A theoretical cornerstone in eyewitness identification research is the proposition that witnesses, in making decisions from standard simultaneous lineups, make relative judgments. The present research considers two sources of support for this proposal. An experiment by G. L. Wells (1993) showed that if the target is removed from a lineup, witnesses shift their responses to pick foils, rather than rejecting the lineups, a result we will term a target-to-foils shift. Additional empirical support is provided by results from sequential lineups which typically show higher accuracy than simultaneous lineups, presumably because of a decrease in the use of relative judgments in making identification decisions. The combination of these two lines of research suggests that the target-to-foils shift should be reduced in sequential lineups relative to simultaneous lineups. Results of two experiments showed an overall advantage for sequential lineups, but also showed a target-to-foils shift equal in size for simultaneous and sequential lineups. Additional analyses indicated that the target-to-foils shift in sequential lineups was moderated in part by an order effect and was produced with (Experiment 2) or without (Experiment 1) a shift in decision criterion. This complex pattern of results suggests that more work is needed to understand the processes which underlie decisions in simultaneous and sequential lineups.

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