The confidence-accuracy relationship for eyewitness identification decisions: Effects of exposure duration, retention interval, and divided attention

Matthew Palmer, Neil Brewer, Nathan Weber, Ambika Nagesh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    84 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Prior research points to a meaningful confidence-accuracy (CA) relationship for positive identification decisions. However, there are theoretical grounds for expecting that different aspects of the CA relationship (calibration, resolution, and over/underconfidence) might be undermined in some circumstances. This research investigated whether the CA relationship for eyewitness identification decisions is affected by three, forensically relevant variables: exposure duration, retention interval, and divided attention at encoding. In Study 1 (N = 986), a field experiment, we examined the effects of exposure duration (5 s vs. 90 s) and retention interval (immediate testing vs. a 1-week delay) on the CA relationship. In Study 2 (N = 502), we examined the effects of attention during encoding on the CA relationship by reanalyzing data from a laboratory experiment in which participants viewed a stimulus video under full or divided attention conditions and then attempted to identify two targets from separate lineups. Across both studies, all three manipulations affected identification accuracy. The central analyses concerned the CA relation for positive identification decisions. For the manipulations of exposure duration and retention interval, overconfidence was greater in the more difficult conditions (shorter exposure; delayed testing) than the easier conditions. Only the exposure duration manipulation influenced resolution (which was better for 5 s than 90 s), and only the retention interval manipulation affected calibration (which was better for immediate testing than delayed testing). In all experimental conditions, accuracy and diagnosticity increased with confidence, particularly at the upper end of the confidence scale. Implications for theory and forensic settings are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-71
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
    Volume19
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013

    Keywords

    • Confidence-accuracy calibration
    • Decisions
    • Divided attention
    • Exposure duration
    • Eyewitness identification
    • Retention interval

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