Do people discount testimony by eyewitnesses who received testimony-bolstering feedback?

Hasel, Lisa
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Eyewitnesses who receive confirming post-identification feedback from a lineup administrator have bolstered testimony regarding their identification. This research examined whether people who were evaluating an eyewitness's testimony would notice that feedback occurred and realize the effect that it could have on an eyewitness's testimony. Experiment 1 was a prediction study in which 98 participants either learned that the eyewitness received confirming feedback or not. Participants did not differ in their estimations of how the eyewitness would answer questions about her retrospective confidence, view, attention, or current confidence as a function of feedback. They also thought that the most important question in determining an eyewitness's accuracy would be about her attention, followed by view, retrospective confidence, and current confidence, respectively. The order in which the questions were posed to the participants may be able to account for these findings. Experiment 2 was a trial study that utilized a 2(feedback: feedback, no feedback) x 2(confidence: high, low) x 2(type: retrospective, current) between-subjects design. The 259 participants in this study thought that the eyewitness was more likely to be accurate in her identification and the suspect should be charged with the crime more if the eyewitness expressed high confidence than if she expressed low confidence in her identification. The other manipulations did not affect the participants' ratings on these questions. Participants in Experiment 2 were unable to accurately report on the manipulations regarding the existence of feedback and the type of feedback. The null findings in this study may be explained by methodological issues, but the problems experienced in this research can be used to inform future research on whether or not people will be able to notice that an eyewitness has received feedback, realize the distorting powers of feedback on an eyewitness's memory, and discount an eyewitness's testimony because of it.