Crime: Older eye witnesses less reliable

The criminal investigative technique of putting an eye witness on the stand to positively identify a criminal is proving through research to be fairly unreliable, frequently causing innocent people to be charged with a crime despite the care investigators take to not prejudice an identification.

Now, according to new research out of Britain, older people are more likely to make mistakes in identifying suspects in police line-ups.

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One hundred thirty four people (aged 22 to 66 years old) watched video footage of a mugging in which two men scuffled over a bag.  Participants were then asked to identify suspects from two different video line-ups. In the first line-up the perpetrator was present, but in the second he was absent. In both scenarios it was made clear that the suspect may or may not be present. How confident participants were that they had identified the suspect in both line-ups was then assessed.

The results showed that older people were more likely to mistakenly identify the suspect in the second line-up, even though he was actually absent.

Dr Kaye said: "It's interesting that older people felt more confident about their selection when they were wrong -- to the point where they had imagined someone to be in the line-up who wasn't there. As we age our accuracy as an eye-witness changes which is something police professionals should take into consideration in these circumstances."

So should the authors of crime fiction.
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Story Source:  Materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS). "Older eyewitnesses make mistakes identifying suspects in police line-ups." ScienceDaily


  1. This is very interesting information but I question where it is being posted. This group is for topics that will be of interest to Economic Development Professionals. This information would be better shared on's Criminal Defense Group or the Legal Issues Group.


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