Would you recognize the perpetrator? What do you need to know when you have to make an identification from a lineup?

But how likely is a witness to be presented with a showup or a certain kind of lineup? It mostly depends on where you live. Currently, the presentation of lineups is changing significantly in some jurisdictions. In the UK the so-called VIPER lineup (Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording) has recently been introduced (Memon, Havard, Clifford, Gabbert, & Watt, 2011). This lineup comprises several short video clips that are sequentially shown to the witness. Lasting about 15 seconds, each clip shows one lineup member and presents a view of the person’s head and shoulders. The face is shown in both a portrait and a 90 degree profile view. All clips are saved in a large database. In order to construct a lineup, the description of the perpetrator is entered into the database, which returns the best matches to the descriptions. Based on this, the lineup administrator can choose the clips for inclusion in the lineup. Usually, the clip depicting the suspect is presented alongside the clips of five-to-eight foils. Even though it is a sequential lineup, it does not implement the strict stopping rule which comprises that each lineup member can only be viewed once and that the lineup presentation is aborted as soon as the witness chooses a lineup member (Valentine, Darling, & Memon, 2007). The reason for this is that the law in England and Wales requires that each video clip must be seen at least twice before a decision can be made. Actually, witnesses can inspect each lineup member as often as they like.

In the US, several states and many cities and counties have changed their procedures in response to the scientific evidence and now conduct sequential instead of simultaneous lineups (Steblay et al., 2011). At the same time, the use of showups is still widespread. Specifically, Gonzalez, Ellsworth, and Pembroke (1993) asked a police detective to keep track of all the lineups and showups in which he was involved. In the same time period that he reached 50 lineups, he had been involved in 172 showups (77%). Furthermore, an archival analysis revealed that 51% of the recorded identification procedures conducted in California between 1978 and 1998 were showups (Behrman & Davey, 2001).

For other European countries, like Germany and Greece, no data exists regarding the use of identification procedures, and there is no explicit legislative basis regulating the administration of lineups (Odenthal, 1990).

Meta-cognitive Influences


It is well-established that there is a positive association between post-decision confidence and identification accuracy when looking at positive identifications (Sporer, Penrod, Read, & Cutler, 1995). This means that more confident witnesses are more likely to be accurate in their identification decisions. No such association exists for lineup rejections. However, it is important to note that this refers only to confidence measured directly after the decision has been made. Thus, it does not refer to confidence uttered after feedback has been given (see above) or in court (chance of contamination through media or other witnesses).

Witnesses would be well advised to think about how confident they are about their decisions right after they have been made. Furthermore, if they were given feedback, it is crucial to mention this in court when asked about the degree of confidence with which they arrived at their decisions.


There is a multitude of factors that can have an impact on an eyewitness’ identification performance during the identification procedure. Knowledge about these can help to increase witnesses’ awareness of the occurrence of such influences that would otherwise remain unnoticed. This can help make decision makers’ evaluations of eyewitness identification testimony and ultimately legal decisions more diagnostic. This would be beneficial for individuals who have been accused while innocent, and for society in general, as wrongful convictions permit the actual perpetrator to walk free.

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