Date of Award
Master of Science
Police rely on eyewitness identifications to solve crimes, but eyewitnesses can make mistakes. These mistakes in decision-making can have serious consequences for the criminal justice system. Eyewitnesses can erroneously identify an innocent suspect as the culprit, which could result in a wrongful conviction, or fail to identify a guilty suspect as the culprit, which could result in the culprit avoiding punishment. Drawing on Berkowitz’s (1989) frustration-aggression hypothesis, the current study tested whether eyewitnesses' status as either a victim or a bystander influenced their decision-making processes in a showup procedure after eliminating attention and encoding as possible mediators of the victim-bystander status manipulation. Although victims reported significantly higher feelings of anger than bystanders, victims did not significantly differ from bystanders in identification rates, confidence ratings, response latency, or motivation to catch the guilty culprit. In addition, victims did not significantly differ from bystanders in their ability to distinguish between guilty culprits and innocent suspects. However, analysis of post-identification judgments revealed that victims who made identified innocent suspects reported paying significantly more attention to the culprit, recalling significantly more specific facial features of the culprit, and having a significantly clearer image of the culprit’s face than bystanders. In addition, victims reported being significantly more willing to testify in court regarding their identification decision than bystanders. These findings suggest that victims may increase the potency of their positive identifications by bolstering responses to post-identification judgments. Consequently, victims may give the appearance of having a greater ability to accurately identify guilty culprits than bystanders, even in the absence of true differences.
Ryan Edward Ditchfield
Ditchfield, Ryan Edward, "Victims as aggressors: Does victim-bystander status influence eyewitness decision-making in showup procedures?" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17001.