October 7, 2022

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Research from Royal Holloway, together with the University of Essex and the University of Bristol, found that older people can be reliable eyewitnesses, despite the perception that their memory makes them less reliable than their younger counterparts.


In the study, the researchers compared how accurately young and older adults could identify the perpetrator of a fake crime from a row of six faces, like a police identity parade.

They tested 1,000 youth ages 18 to 30 and 1,000 older participants ages 60 and older, and found that, as with young adults, when older adults were highly confident in their identification decisions, their identifications were highly accurate.

The researchers also found that regardless of age, the speed of the suspect identifiers was a good indicator of the accuracy of the identifiers. That is, when the identification was quick – less than six seconds – the identified suspect was much more likely to be guilty than innocent.

dr. Juliet Holdstock, of Royal Holloway’s Department of Psychology, said: “This report shows that the police, judges and jurors should not just assume that because older adults generally have poorer memories, they cannot provide reliable eyewitness accounts.

“We found that very confident and rapid identifications by older adults are likely to be very accurate and we propose that the confidence and speed with which witnesses make their first identification in criminal cases should be recorded and used in court.

“Knowing this information can ultimately reduce the convictions of innocent people and increase the convictions of guilty people.”

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This research was published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.


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More information:
Juliet S. Holdstock et al, Line-up identification in young and older witnesses: does describing the criminal help or hinder?, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s41235-022-00399-1

Provided by Royal Holloway, University of London

Quote: Older eyewitnesses should not be dismissed by courts as unreliable (2022, August 11) Retrieved August 11, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-older-eyewitnesses-dismissed-courts-unreliable.html

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