Changing the face of police lineups: Delivering more information from witnesses

Neil Brewer, James Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Police lineups are widely used despite evidence that eyewitnesses frequently err by failing to identify the culprit or mistakenly identifying innocent suspects or lineup fillers. We examine how police investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges interpret the information witnesses provide when confronted with a traditional lineup and describe one alternative procedure that departs significantly from current practice. This alternative abandons the categorical witness decision, replacing it with confidence judgments about each lineup member's match to memory for the culprit. Compared with the traditional lineup, this approach provides more nuanced information about suspect guilt. We challenge criminal justice researchers and professionals to examine the potential informational gains this approach offers—and to explore other genuine alternatives—rather than merely tinkering with the existing approach. Finally, we emphasize that a truly collaborative engagement with justice system professionals will be more productive than researchers being the sole arbiters of model practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-195
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Police lineups
  • Eyewitness identification
  • Confidence
  • Probability of guilt


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