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J Exp Psychol Appl. 2012 Dec;18(4):361-76. doi: 10.1037/a0030609.

Receiver operating characteristic analysis of eyewitness memory: comparing the diagnostic accuracy of simultaneous versus sequential lineups.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0109, USA.


A police lineup presents a real-world signal-detection problem because there are two possible states of the world (the suspect is either innocent or guilty), some degree of information about the true state of the world is available (the eyewitness has some degree of memory for the perpetrator), and a decision is made (identifying the suspect or not). A similar state of affairs applies to diagnostic tests in medicine because, in a patient, the disease is either present or absent, a diagnostic test yields some degree of information about the true state of affairs, and a decision is made about the presence or absence of the disease. In medicine, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis is the standard method for assessing diagnostic accuracy. By contrast, in the eyewitness memory literature, this powerful technique has never been used. Instead, researchers have attempted to assess the diagnostic performance of different lineup procedures using methods that cannot identify the better procedure (e.g., by computing a diagnosticity ratio). Here, we describe the basics of ROC analysis, explaining why it is needed and showing how to use it to measure the performance of different lineup procedures. To illustrate the unique advantages of this technique, we also report 3 ROC experiments that were designed to investigate the diagnostic accuracy of simultaneous versus sequential lineups. According to our findings, the sequential procedure appears to be inferior to the simultaneous procedure in discriminating between the presence versus absence of a guilty suspect in a lineup.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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