The role of experimenter familiarity in children’s eyewitness identification

Lesley Calderwood*, Carrie Ballantyne, Kimberley Slee

*Corresponding author for this work

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Child eyewitnesses show a high false identification rate on target-absent (TA) lineups despite good performance on target-present (TP) lineups. One explanation is that children feel a social pressure to choose when presented with a TA lineup. We investigated whether experimenter familiarity would reduce social pressure and improve accuracy on TA lineups. Children (5–7 years, N = 120) watched a short video of a staged theft; 1–2 days later they completed a TP or TA lineup with a familiar or unfamiliar experimenter. Experimenter familiarity had an impact on lineup response in TA lineups only, with more correct ‘not there’ and fewer ‘not sure’ responses when the children were familiar with the experimenter. The results provide further evidence to support the social aspect of eyewitness identification decisions in children and provide a possible strategy to improve identification accuracy for those working with children in the criminal justice system.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Early online date26 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Apr 2023


  • child eyewitness memory
  • eyewitness identification procedures
  • familiarity of lineup administrator
  • lineup options
  • choosing behaviour
  • social pressure
  • improving identification accuracy


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