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Abstract

It is well established that sequential presentation of faces in an eyewitness situation can reduce false identification rates. The effect of a sequential presentation on the probability of accurately identifying a culprit when present in a lineup is less clear. The current study examined the efficacy of the sequential procedure in culprit present lineups approximating the real life condition where a person's appearance has changed between the time they were seen and the identification. Young (17–33 years) and older (58–80 years) witnesses viewed a video of a crime and then engaged in some filler tasks. Later they viewed a culprit-present lineup presented in a simultaneous or sequential format. Some witnesses viewed lineups in which target appearance (hairstyle) had changed and some where it had not. Sequential testing was associated with fewer choices (hits and foil choices) as compared to simultaneous testing. A change of appearance lowered hit rates in sequential test conditions among young adults. Finally, participants in sequential conditions were more likely to report that they expected the target to be present in the lineup. We advise policy makers not to advocate sequential testing until we have a full understanding of the conditions under which the sequential-superiority effect may be observed. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.