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Abstract

Three experiments investigated the role of ‘change blindness’ in mistaken eyewitness identifications of innocent bystanders to a simulated crime. Two innocent people appeared briefly in a filmed scene in a supermarket. The ‘continuous innocent’ (CI) walked down the liquor aisle and passed behind a stack of boxes, whereupon the perpetrator emerged and stole a bottle of liquor, thereby resulting in an action sequence promoting the illusion of continuity between perpetrator and innocent. The ‘discontinuous innocent’ (DI) was shown immediately afterward in the produce aisle. Results revealed that: (1) more than half of participants failed to notice the change between the CI and the perpetrator, (2) among those who failed to notice the change, more misidentified the ‘CI’ than the ‘DI’, a pattern that did not hold for those who did notice the change. Participants were less likely to notice the change when they were distracted while watching the video. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.