Eyewitness reports

One particularly fun ongoing project in Dr. Lindsay's lab, conducted in collaboration with Liz Brimacombe (UVic) and John Turtle (Ryerson), explores how undergrads role-playing as police officers evaluate the eyewitness reports of other students who witnessed a videotaped crime. 

In particular, the researchers are interested in how much stock subject-investigators place in the suspect-identification (lineup) decisions of subject-witnesses under varying conditions. They are using a fairly elaborate procedure in which the subject-investigator interviews the subject-witness, searches a data base to find a suspect who matches the MO and description, and administers a lineup including that suspect (who either is or is not the perpetrator from the video) to the subject-witness. Along the way, subject-investigators fill out various scales (e.g., rate how likely it is that their suspect is the perpetrator). 

Generally, they find that subject-investigators put a lot of faith in subject-witnesses’ identification decisions, even when the witnesses were tested under conditions that lead to chance-level performance. Undergraduate subject-investigators have thus far shown little if any sensitivity to factors that dramatically affected the accuracy of the subject-witnesses, and are generally just as swayed by erroneous witnesses as they are by accurate witnesses.

In the near future they hope to begin testing experienced police officers in this procedure and are excited to find out if police are better at discriminating between accurate and inaccurate witnesses.