Influence of Confidence Inflation and Explanation for Changes in Confidence on Evaluations of Eyewitness Identification Accuracy

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Published in: Legal and Criminological Psychology, Volume 16, Number 2, 2011.


Guidelines for conducting police line-ups typically recommend immediate assessment of eyewitness confidence following identification. This confidence level can presumably be used to estimate accuracy even in the presence of subsequently inflated confidence. In this experiment, we examined students' perceptions of immediate and inflated confidence and whether their reliance on confidence varies as a function of the explanations given by the eyewitness for her inflated confidence. Each of 126 university students viewed one of five versions of a videotaped officer–eyewitness interaction depicting an eyewitness identification and follow-up interview in which the eyewitness gave a (1) high or (2) moderate level of confidence or inflated her confidence and gave a (3) confidence epiphany, (4) memory contamination, or (5) no explanation for the inflation. The memory contamination and confidence epiphany explanations led to lower ratings of identification accuracy as compared to the high-confidence control condition, supporting the immediate confidence recommendation but in some ways contradicting previous research on this issue. The results suggest the need for further research to understand the conditions under which confidence inflation influences juror evaluations of eyewitness identification.