Estimating the reliability of eyewitness identifications from police lineups

John T. Wixted, Laura Mickes, John C. Dunn, Steven E. Clark, William Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Laboratory-based mock crime studies have often been interpreted to mean that (i) eyewitness confidence in an identification made from a lineup is a weak indicator of accuracy and (ii) sequential lineups are diagnostically superior to traditional simultaneous lineups. Largely as a result, juries are increasingly encouraged to disregard eyewitness confidence, and up to 30% of law enforcement agencies in the United States have adopted the sequential procedure. We conducted a field study of actual eyewitnesses who were assigned to simultaneous or sequential photo lineups in the Houston Police Department over a 1-y period. Identifications were made using a three-point confidence scale, and a signal detection model was used to analyze and interpret the results. Our findings suggest that (i) confidence in an eyewitness identification from a fair lineup is a highly reliable indicator of accuracy and (ii) if there is any difference in diagnostic accuracy between the two lineup formats, it likely favors the simultaneous procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-309
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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