Choosing Similar Looking “Fillers” in Police Line-Up Has No Effect

Published in Law and Behavior, accessible here.


Eyewitness lineups typically contain a suspect (guilty or innocent) and fillers (known innocents). The degree to which fillers should resemble the suspect is a complex issue that has yet to be resolved. Previously, researchers have voiced concern that eyewitnesses would be unable to identify their target from a lineup containing highly similar fillers; however, our literature review suggests highly similar fillers have only rarely been shown to have this effect. To further examine the effect of highly similar fillers on lineup responses, we used morphing software to create fillers of moderately high and very high similarity to the suspect. When the culprit was in the lineup, a higher correct identification rate was observed in moderately high similarity lineups than in very high similarity lineups. When the culprit was absent, similarity did not yield a significant effect on innocent suspect misidentification rates. However, the correct rejection rate in the moderately high similarity lineup was 20% higher than in the very high similarity lineup. When choosing rates were controlled by calculating identification probabilities for only those who made a selection from the lineup, culprit identification rates as well as innocent suspect misidentification rates were significantly higher in the moderately high similarity lineup than in the very high similarity lineup. Thus, very high similarity fillers yielded costs and benefits. Although our research suggests that selecting the most similar fillers available may adversely affect correct identification rates, we recommend additional research using fillers obtained from police databases to corroborate our findings.


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