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Investigating mug shot commitment

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A commitment error occurs when participants search through mug shots for the perpetrator, make a selection from the mug book, and then select that same individual from a subsequent lineup, even when faced with the actual perpetrator. The present study replicated a performance decrement arising from the commitment effect. In another condition, participants were allowed to choose several foils that resembled the perpetrator from the mug book, rather than searching for a single perpetrator. No deficit arose in the ability to pick the actual perpetrator from a subsequent lineup. Following lineup decisions, participants made source judgments for all lineup members. Commitment resulted in participants not recognizing the perpetrator, which supported a memory-blending/replacement hypothesis. In contrast, witnesses who did not commit made source-monitoring errors, attributing the perpetrator to the mug shots. This study provides additional evidence that once an eyewitness has made an identification, no further identifications should be attempted because access to memory for the perpetrator is diminished. Alternative mug shot procedures may mitigate this problem.
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Keywords: eyewitness identification; mug shot commitment; mug shot exposure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, USA 2: Department of Psychology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA 3: Department of Psychology, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, USA

Publication date: March 16, 2015

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