Eyewitnesses’ Pre-lineup Memory Strength Inferences Can Influence Identification Decisions

Neil Brewer, Tick Zweck, Carmen A. Lucas, Matthew Guidolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The potential influence of eyewitnesses’ metacognitions on identification decisions when confronted with a police lineup is largely unexplored. In two experiments, we investigated whether eyewitnesses’ pre-lineup memory strength inferences influenced the likelihood of their choosing from a lineup. In experiment 1, manipulating witnesses’ memory strength inferences, while holding memory encoding and retention conditions constant, increased positive identifications from culprit-absent lineups when witnesses inferred they had a poor memory for the culprit. In experiment 2, witnesses who had been interviewed and experienced difficult rather than easy recall of the culprit that was likely suggestive of a poor memory made more positive identifications from both culprit-absent and culprit-present lineups than those who experienced easy recall. Signal detection analyses supported a criterion shift account that proposes that witnesses who infer they have a relatively poor memory may demand less evidence for a positive identification than if they inferred a good memory. Thus, witnesses’ memory strength inferences may influence identification decisions independent of encoding conditions and lineup characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Early online date11 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2021


  • Eyewitness identification
  • Memory strength
  • Metacognition
  • Police lineups


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