A robust finding from the eyewitness literature is that children are as accurate as adults on target-present lineups from the age of five years, whereas they continue to make an erroneous false positive identification from a target-absent lineup up until fourteen years (Pozzulo & Lindsay, 1998). The current study explores whether the same pattern occurs when voices are used instead of faces and evaluates the reliability of children as potential earwitnesses. A total of 334 participants from six age groups (6-7-year-olds, 8-9-year-olds, 10-11-year-olds, 12-13-year-olds, 14-15-year-olds and adults) listened to a 30 second audio clip of an unfamiliar voice and were then presented with either a six person target-present or target-absent voice lineup. Overall, participants were more accurate with target-present than target-absent lineups. Performance on target-present lineups showed adult-like levels of attainment by 8-9 years of age. In contrast, performance on target-absent lineups was extremely poor and remained poor through to adulthood with all age groups tending to make a false identification. Confidence was higher when participants made correct than incorrect decisions for both types of lineup and this did not change with increasing age. Given these results, both child and adult earwitness evidence needs to be treated with considerable caution.
- Child witnesses
- voice identification