Volume 28, Issue 1 (January 1983)
Criminal Identification Comparison: Aural Versus Visual Identifications Resulting from a Simulated Crime
This research was undertaken to investigate and contrast visual and aural/perceptual identifications of a previously unknown individual from a set of photographic and tape-recorded exemplars following a simulated crime. All participants were volunteers for the “criminal,” the victim of an “assault,” and all suspects drawn from a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) class; the “witnesses” were 61 students in a law class. The student/witnesses were divided into four groups. Group A made three identifications (serially) one day, one week, and two weeks after the crime took place. Group B saw the photographs and heard the tapes only once a week after the incident, and Group C only after two weeks had elapsed. Witnesses in a fourth group (D) followed the same schedual as did Group A; however, they were presented with foils similar in appearance and speech to the criminal. Group D was presented both the foil and criminal in the photographic lineup at the final judging s~sslon. The results demonstrated that visual identification can be quite accurate although not consistently or predictably so. By contrast, aural/perceptual identifications were relatively poor. No strong trends for latencies were observed, either for repeated trials or for procedures involving different Initiation latencies; nor did confidence levels appear to be related to accuracy of Judgment, Finally, when a similar looking foil was included in the identification task, there was a weak trend for the foil to be chosen more often in subsequent trials. These results support the position that eyewitness—and especially earwitness—testimony should be viewed by judges and juries with greater caution than has been the case in the past; by appropriate instructions, juries should be given assistance in interpreting and in assigning appropriate weight to this kind of testimony.