A quantitative study on earwitness accuracy
Abstract: When a crime has occurred, witness statements are taken. Witnesses, in particular earwitnesses, however lack accuracy in identification. There is no working model or interview guide on how to best achieve accurate earwitness identifications. However, previous studies suggest that voice descriptions could be helpful. This study investigated if overt examples of voice characteristics would improve earwitnesses accuracy in identification. A total of 53 participants answered an online survey. The participants listened to a threatening voice and afterwards tried to identify the voice from a line-up. The participants were randomly assigned to either describe the suspect by free recall (control) or to rate descriptions in one of two pre-determined voice characteristics-lists: the Swedish Security Service Interview (SSSI), and a new “extensive adjectives”-list (EA). The EA list was thought to improve the participants accuracy in identifying the suspect from the line-up. Overall, 30.2 % of the participants were accurate in their identifications. Although not significant, the SSSI group had a higher accuracy compared to the EA group and the control (47.6 vs 26.7 vs 11.8%). These results contrast previous research showing limited usefulness of the SSSI. Moreover, I found no relation between participants’ accuracy and how confident they were in accurately identifying the suspect. Our findings would need to be replicated with a bigger sample size to draw any further conclusions.
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