Refining the blank line-up procedure: How should we instruct eyewitnesses?

Talira Kucina, James D. Sauer, Glenys A. Holt, Neil Brewer, Matthew A. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Presenting a blank line-up—containing only fillers—to witnesses prior to showing a real line-up might be useful for screening out those who pick from the blank line-up as unreliable witnesses. We show that the effectiveness of this procedure varies depending on instructions given to witnesses. Participants (N = 462) viewed a simulated crime and attempted to identify the perpetrator from a line-up approximately 1 week later. Rejecting a blank line-up was associated with greater identification accuracy and greater diagnosticity of suspect identifications, but only when witnesses were instructed prior to the blank line-up that they would view a series of line-ups; the procedure was ineffective for screening when witnesses were advised they would view two line-ups or received no instruction. These results highlight the importance of instructions used in the blank line-up procedure, and the need for better understanding of how to interpret choosing patterns in this paradigm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1419-1429
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • blank line-up
  • confirmation bias
  • eyewitness identification
  • line-up instructions

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