Positive and negative effects of physical context reinstatement on eyewitness recall and identification



The impact of context reinstatement (CR) on eyewitness recall and identification was explored in this study. Participants viewed a video of a staged theft and, following a 1-week interval, were asked to identify the culprit and recall the event in either the same or in a different physical environment. Results suggested that CR enhanced the perceived familiarity of the lineup members, which in turn increased participants' willingness to identify someone in the lineup. Although CR significantly improved facial discrimination and identification accuracy when the target was present, it also increased confidence ratings beyond that warranted by the increase in accuracy. In terms of recall, reinstating the study context improved participants' free recall of both central and peripheral details and cued recall of peripheral details. The results were consistent with a (mis)attribution of familiarity and the outshining hypothesis. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.