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"All I remember is the black eye": A distinctive facial feature harms eyewitness identification

NCJ Number
Applied Cognitive Psychology Volume: 34 Issue: 6 Dated: 2020 Pages: 1379-1393
Alyssa R. Jones; Curt A. Carlson; Robert F. Lockamyeir; Jacob A. Hemby; Maria A. Carlson; Alex R. Wooten
Date Published

This study conducted an experiment to determine how eyewitness ID performance is impacted by a distinctive facial feature of a perpetrator and how police could deal with this issue.


Many crimes occur in which a perpetrator has a distinctive facial feature, such as a tattoo or black eye, but few eyewitness identification (ID) studies have involved such a feature. In The current study, participants (N = 4,218) studied a target face with or without a black eye, and later viewed a simultaneous photo lineup either containing the target or not. For those who saw a target with a black eye, this feature was either replicated among all lineup members or was removed. The black eye harmed empirical discriminability regardless of replication or removal, which did not differ; however, participants responded more conservatively when the black eye was removed, compared to replication. Lastly, immediate confidence was consistently indicative of accuracy. (publisher abstract modified)