Do the clothes make the criminal? The influence of clothing match on identification accuracy in showups

Stacy Wetmore, Jeffrey S. Neuschatz, Scott D. Gronlund, Kylie N. Key, Charles A. Goodsell

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Showups, a single suspect identification, are thought to be a more suggestive procedure than traditional lineups by the U.S. Supreme Court and social science researchers. Previous research typically finds that a clothing match in showup identifications increases false identifications. However, these experiments do not allow for a determination of whether this increase arises from a change in response bias, reduced discriminability, or both. In the present study, participants viewed a mock crime video and made a showup identification with either a clothing match or mismatch. Contrary to prior research, the best discriminability occurred when the guilty and innocent suspects wore clothing that matched the clothing worn during the crime. A clothing match also resulted in a more liberal response bias. The results are consistent with the principle of encoding specificity and the outshining hypothesis, as instantiated in the item, context, ensemble theory. Practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-42
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory & Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date27 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

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