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

2 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


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
Pages (from-to)339-350
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Eyewitness identification
  • Memory strength
  • Metacognition
  • Police lineups


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