Elkins, Courtlyn

Elkins, Courtlyn
Start date:
October 2022
Research Topic:
How lineup construction methods impact the accuracy of eyewitness identifications
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Ruth Horry and Dr Jodie Davies-Thompson
Supervising school:
Department of Psychology,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

I am researching how different lineup construction methods can impact the accuracy of eyewitness identifications and whether blinding lineup constructors to the suspect’s appearance creates fairer lineups. Previous research has investigated two methods for selecting lineup fillers: the similarity-to-suspect method and the match-to-description method. Similarity-to-suspect lineups are created by selecting fillers based on the suspect’s appearance, while match-to-description lineups are created by using the witness’s description of the perpetrator to select fillers (i.e. witness describes suspect as a young, white male with brown hair; thus, fillers are young, white males with brown hair). However, past implementations of the match-to-description method may be biased as lineup constructors have existing knowledge of the suspect.
The purpose of this study is to determine how blinding lineup constructors to the appearance of police suspects impacts:
i) lineup fairness; and
ii) the accuracy of lineup decisions.

A mixed methods approach will be used to test whether the effectiveness of the match-to-description method can be improved by blinding the lineup constructor to the suspect, thereby enabling a purer implementation of this method. We predict blinded lineup constructors will create fairer lineups, which will improve lineup decision accuracy. The information gained from this study could have important implications as we still do not have solid answers to aid law enforcement in constructing suspect lineups. If effective, blinding lineup constructors would be a feasible and cost-effective way to increase the reliability of eyewitness identification evidence.