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Eyewitness Identification and the Selection of Distracters for Lineups

C. A. Elizabeth Luus and Gary L. Wells
Law and Human Behavior
Vol. 15, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 43-57
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1394050
Page Count: 15
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Eyewitness Identification and the Selection of Distracters for Lineups
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Abstract

Previous treatments of eyewitness lineups have focused exclusively on the importance of homogeneity (similarity of common features) in the physical characteristics of lineup members. This has led to some confusion about the proper way to select distracters. We argue that distracters should not be selected for their similarity to the suspect but rather for their similarity to the witness's description of the culprit. The similarity-to-suspect strategy fails to define limits to the number, type, and degree of featural matching and falls prey to the logical extension that a good lineup is composed of the suspect's clones. Accordingly, the similarity-to-suspect strategy has no supportive logic in recognition memory theory and gives no credit to the importance of hit rates. The similarity-to-witness's-description-of-culprit criterion, on the other hand, specifies a finite and manageable set of feature requirements for distracters, articulates a role for heterogeneous features, meets all functional requirements for fairness to the suspect, has a supportive logic in recognition memory theory, preserves hit rates, and is not subject to the clone argument.

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