Individual differences in eyewitness identification accuracy between sequential and simultaneous line-ups: consequences for police practice and jury decisions
More details
Hide details
School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom
Submission date: 2016-09-01
Final revision date: 2016-09-13
Acceptance date: 2016-09-15
Online publication date: 2016-10-11
Publication date: 2016-12-05
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2016;4(4):228-239
Although previous research has indicated that sequential line-up procedures result in fewer mistaken identifications, this was found to be at the expense of accurate identifications more typical within simultaneous procedures. Hence, there remains a lack of agreement about which procedure is superior, and the interaction such procedures have with eyewitness confidence. The interaction between witness demographics and identification accuracy also remains unclear.

Participants and procedure
The opportunistic sample, consisting of 60 people from the general population, was divided randomly into two experimental conditions: simultaneous (SIM) and sequential (SEQ). Participants in the sequential procedure observed 12 photographs, one at a time, deciding if they believed the suspect to be the person shown in the current photograph and unable to return to a given picture once they decided the individual shown was not the suspect described. Participants in the simultaneous condition were shown all 12 photographs concurrently and asked to determine which, if any, of the photographs was the suspect described.

No significant differences were found in identification accuracy between line-up procedures, but significant differences in confidence levels between the two line-up procedures were found. Additionally, analysis of demographic features showed previous line-up experience to be significantly associated with identification accuracy.

The present research provides new insight into the interaction of eyewitness confidence between line-up techniques, offering an alternative explanation of witness confidence as well as procedural fairness. Evidence of practice effects increasing the accuracy of identification provides beneficial future implications for police line-up procedures and safer jury decisions, often reliant on identification evidence.
Boccaccini, M. T., Gordon, T., & Brodsky, S. L. (2005). Witness preparation training with real and simulated criminal defendants. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 23, 659–687.
Boduszek, D., Dhingra, K., & Debowska, A. (2016). The moderating role of psychopathic traits in the relationship between period of confinement and criminal social identity in a sample of juvenile prisoners. Journal of Criminal Justice, 44, 30–35.
Bothwell, R. K., Deffenbacher, K. A., & Brigham, J. C. (1987). Correlation of eyewitness accuracy and confidence: Optimality hypothesis revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 691.
Bradfield, A. L., & Wells, G. L. (2000). The perceived validity of eyewitness identification testimony: A test of the five Biggers criteria. Law and Human Behavior, 24, 581–594.
Brewer, N., & Wells, G. L. (2006). The Confidence-Accuracy relationship in eyewitness identification: Effects of Lineup Instructions, Foil similarity, and target-absent base rates. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 12, 11–30.
Brigham, J. C., & Bothwell, R. K. (1983). The ability of prospective jurors to estimate the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. Law and Human Behavior, 7, 19–30.
British Psychological Society. (2014). Code of Human Research Ethics. Leicester: BPS.
Brown, E., Deffenbacher, K., & Sturgill, W. (1977). Memory for faces and the circumstances of encounter. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62, 311.
Carlson, C. A., Gronlund, S. D., & Clark, S. E. (2008). Lineup Composition, suspect position, and the sequential lineup advantage. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17, 1–11.
Cutler, B. L., & Penrod, P. O. (1988). Improving the reliability of eyewitness identification: Lineup construction and presentation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, 281–290.
Cutler, B. L., Penrod, S. D., & Dexter, H. R. (1990). Juror sensitivity to eyewitness identification evidence. Law and Human Behavior, 14, 185.
Deffenbacher, K. A. (1980). Eyewitness accuracy and confidence. Law and Human Behavior, 4, 243–260.
Deffenbacher, K. A., & Loftus, E. F. (1982). Do jurors share a common understanding concerning eyewitness behavior? Law and Human Behavior, 6, 15–30.
Devlin, L. P. (1976). Report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the Departmental Committee on Evidence of Identification in Criminal Cases. London: HMSO.
Dobolyi, D. G., & Dodson, C. S. (2013). Eyewitness confidence in simultaneous and sequential lineups: A criterion shift account for sequential mistaken identification overconfidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 19, 345.
Doob, A. N., & Kirshenbaum, H. M. (1973). Bias in Police line-ups: partial remembering. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 1, 287–293.
Dysart, J. E., & Lindsay, R. C. L. (2001). A preidentification questioning effect: Serendipitously increasing correct rejection. Law and Human Behaviour, 25, 155–165.
Ebbesen, E. B., & Flowe, H. (2002). Simultaneous v. Sequential lineups: What do we really know? Unpublished manuscript.
Ellison, L., & Munro, V. E. (2014). ‘Telling tales’: exploring narratives of life and law within the (mock) jury room. Legal Studies, n/a-n/a. doi: 10.1111/lest.12051.
Erickson, W. B., Lampinen, J. M., & Moore, K. N. (2016). Eyewitness identifications by older and younger adults: a meta-analysis and discussion. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 31, 108-121.
Field, A. (2009). Discovering Statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). London, England: Sage.
Garrett, B. (2011). Convicting the innocent. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Hosch, H. M., & Platz, S. J. (1984). Self-monitoring and eyewitness accuracy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10, 289–292.
Innocence Project. (2015). The Causes of Wrongful Conviction. Retrieved from http://www.innocenceproject.or....
Kassin, S., Tubb, V., Hosch, H., & Memon, A. (2001). On the ‘General acceptance’ of eyewitness testimony research: a new survey of the experts. American Psychologist, 56, 405–416.
Kneller, W., Memon, A., & Stevenage, S. (2001). Simultaneous and sequential lineups: Decision processes of accurate and inaccurate eyewitnesses. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15, 659–671.
Lindsay, R. C. (1986). Confidence and accuracy of eyewitness identification from lineups. Law and Human Behavior, 10, 229–239.
Lindsay, R. C., & Bellinger, K. (1999). Alternatives to the sequential lineup: The importance of controlling the pictures. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 315–321.
Lindsay, R. C., Lea, J. A., & Fulford, J. A. (1991). Sequential lineup presentation: Technique matters. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 741–745.
Lindsay, R. C., & Wells, G. L. (1985). Improving eyewitness identifications from lineups: Simultaneous versus sequential lineup presentation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 556–564.
Lindsay, R. C., Wells, G. L., & O’Connor, F. J. (1989). Mock-juror belief of accurate and inaccurate eyewitnesses. Law and Human Behavior, 13, 333–339.
Malpass, R. S., Tredoux, C. G., & McQuiston-Surrett, D. (2009). Response to Lindsay, Mansour, Beaudry, Leach and Bertrands ‘sequential lineup presentation: Patterns and Policy’. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 14, 25–30.
McQuiston-Surrett, D., Malpass, R. S., & Tredoux, C. G. (2006). Sequential vs. Simultaneous lineups: A review of methods, data and theory. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 12, 137–169.
Meissner, C. A., & Brigham, J. C. (2001). Thirty years of investigating the own-race bias in memory for faces: A meta-analytic review. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 7, 3–35.
Meissner, C. A., Tredoux, C. G., Parker, J. F., & Mac­Lin, O. H. (2005). Eyewitness decisions in simultaneous and sequential lineups: A dual-process signal detection theory analysis. Memory & Cognition, 33, 783–792.
Melara, R. D., DeWitt-Rickards, T. S., & O’Brien, T. P. (1989). Enhancing lineup identification accuracy: Two codes are better than one. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 706–713.
Penrod, S., & Cutler, B. (1995). Witness confidence and witness accuracy: Assessing their forensic relation. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1, 817.
Police Executive Research Forum. (2013). A National Survey of Eyewitness Identification Procedures in Law Enforcement Agencies (US Department of Justice, Washington, DC).
Pozzulo, J. D., & Lindsay, R. C. (1998). Identification accuracy of children versus adults: a meta-analysis. Law and Human Behavior, 22, 549–570.
Scheck, B., Neufield, P., & Dwyer, J. (2000). Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and other Dispatches from the Wrongfully Convicted. London: Penguin.
Semmler, C., Brewer, N., & Douglass, A. B. (2011). Jurors believe eyewitnesses. In B. L. Cutler (ed.), Conviction of the innocent: Lessons from psychological research (pp. 185–209). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Shapiro, P. N., & Penrod, S. (1986). Meta-analysis of facial identification studies. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 139.
Sherretts, N., & Willmott, D. (2016). Construct validity and dimensionality of the measure of criminal social identity using data drawn from American, Pakistani, and Polish inmates. Journal of Criminal Psychology, 6, 134–143.
Sporer, S. L., Penrod, S., Read, D., & Cutler, B. (1995). Choosing, confidence, and accuracy: A meta-analysis of the confidence-accuracy relation in eyewitness identification studies. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 315–327.
Steblay, N., Dysart, J., Fulero, S., & Lindsay, R. C. L. (2001). Eyewitness accuracy rates in sequential and simultaneous lineup presentations: A meta-analytic comparison. Law and Human Behavior, 25, 459–447.
Steblay, N. K., Dysart, J. E., & Wells, G. L. (2011). Seventy-two tests of the sequential lineup superiority effect: A meta-analysis and policy discussion. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 17, 99–139.
Tredoux, C. G. (1999). Statistical considerations when determining measures of lineup size and lineup bias. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13, 9–26.
Valentine, T., & Heaton, P. (1999). An Evaluation of the fairness of police line-ups and video identifications. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13, 59–72.
Wells, G. (1978). Applied eyewitness-testimony research: System variables and estimator variables. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1546–1557.
Wells, G. (1984). The psychology of lineup identifications. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 89–103.
Wells, G. (1993). What do we know about eyewitness identification? American Psychologist, 48, 553–571.
Wells, G. (2006). Eyewitness identification: systemic reforms. Wisconsin Law Review, 5, 615–643.
Wells, G., & Bradfield, A. L. (1999). Distortions in eyewitnesses’ recollections: Can the postidentification-feedback effect be moderated? Psychological Science, 10, 138–144.
Wells, G., Memon, A., & Penrod, S. (2006). Eyewitness evidence: Improving its probative value. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 7, 45–75.
Wells, G. L., & Murray, D. M. (1984). Eyewitness confidence. In G. L. Wells & E. F. Loftus (eds.), Eyewitness testimony: Psychological perspectives (pp. 155–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wells, G., & Olson, E. (2003). Eyewitness identification. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 277–295.
Wells, G., Small, M., Penrod, S., Malpass, R., Fulero, S., & Brimacombe, C. (1998). Eyewitness Identification procedures: Recommendations for line-ups and photospreads. Law and Human Behaviour, 22, 603–647.
Wells, G. L., Steblay, N. K., & Dysart, J. E. (2015). Double-blind photo lineups using actual eyewitnesses: An experimental test of a sequential versus simultaneous lineup procedure. Law and Human Behavior, 39, 1–14.
Wixted, J. T., Mickes, L., Dunn, J. C., Clark, S. E., & Wells, W. (2016). Estimating the reliability of eyewitness identifications from police lineups. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 304–309.
Wogalter, M. S., Malpass, R. S., & McQuiston, D. E. (2004). A national survey of U.S. police on preparation and conduct of identification lineups. Psychology, Crime & Law, 10, 69–82.
World Medical Association. (2013). WMA declaration of Helsinki: Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. Retrieved from
Wright, D. B., & Stroud, J. N. (2002). Age differences in lineup identification accuracy: People are better with their own age. Law and Human Behaviour, 26, 641–654.
Yarmey, A. D. (1993). Adult Age and gender differences in eyewitness recall in field settings. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 1921–1932.
Copyright: © Institute of Psychology, University of Gdansk This is an Open Access journal, all articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License (, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.
Journals System - logo
Scroll to top