A Re-examination of Eyewitness Memory Phenomena Using Receiver Operating Characteristic Analysis and ConfidenceAccuracy Characteristic Analysis: A RE-EXAMINATION OF EYEWITNESS MEMORY PHENOMENA

Travis Seale-Carlisle

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Eyewitness identification research is focused on investigating the factors that affect the eyewitnesses’ ability to accurately identify the perpetrator from a lineup. A lineup consists of the police suspect and several other individuals who resemble the perpetrator, but are known to be innocent (called fillers). Several decades of research continue to have a growing impact on criminal justice systems throughout the world, most notably in the US, by informing public policy and informing the court (i.e. judges and jurors) through expert testimony. Efforts to shape public policy have been directed at improving fundamental aspects of the identification process with the goal to implement procedures that maximize discriminability – the ability to distinguish innocent from guilty suspects. Yet, poor measures of discriminability have resulted in many US jurisdictions implementing substandard procedures that may actually reduce discriminability. In court, factors that reduce discriminability are believed by many experts to reduce the reliability of an eyewitness identification – the accuracy of a suspect identification admitted as evidence in court. However, discriminability and reliability are two separate measures of eyewitness identification “accuracy.” That is, an eyewitness may have poor discriminability, but may nonetheless make a reliable identification from a lineup. To critically assess this issue, I have re-examined several eyewitness memory phenomena including the sequential superiority effect (Chapter 3), the verbal overshadowing effect (Chapter 4), and the weapon focus effect (Chapter 5) using two analytic techniques recently introduced to the eyewitness identification field that measure discriminability and the reliability of a suspect identification: receiver operating characteristic analysis and confidence-accuracy characteristic analysis, respectively. Together, this research highlights the importance of distinguishing between discriminability and reliability. Appreciating this distinction can help inform policymakers of procedures that boost discriminability and can help inform the court of the reliability of a suspect identification.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Mickes, Laura, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 25 May 2017


  • Eyewitness Identification
  • receiver operating characteristic analysis
  • confidence accuracy characteristic analysis
  • memory
  • verbal overshadowing
  • weapon focus
  • sequential lineup
  • simultaneous lineup

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