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J Exp Psychol Appl. 2006 Mar;12(1):11-30.

The confidence-accuracy relationship in eyewitness identification: effects of lineup instructions, foil similarity, and target-absent base rates.

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School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia.


Discriminating accurate from mistaken eyewitness identifications is a major issue facing criminal justice systems. This study examined whether eyewitness confidence assists such decisions under a variety of conditions using a confidence-accuracy (CA) calibration approach. Participants (N = 1,200) viewed a simulated crime and attempted 2 separate identifications from 8-person target-present or target-absent lineups. Confidence and accuracy were calibrated for choosers (but not nonchoosers) for both targets under all conditions. Lower overconfidence was associated with higher diagnosticity, lower target-absent base rates, and shorter identification latencies. Although researchers agree that courtroom expressions of confidence are uninformative, our findings indicate that confidence assessments obtained immediately after a positive identification can provide a useful guide for investigators about the likely accuracy of an identification.

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