The development of a computer system to collect descriptions of culprits



Recent research has demonstrated that verbal overshadowing occurs when a witness is forced to provide details of the culprit that are not readily available, but the effect does not occur when the witness is warned to provide only the information they are absolutely sure of (Meissner et al., 2001). The present study attempts to replicate this effect and to further examine the instructional manipulation in the development of a computerized identification system, PC_Eyewitness (PCE). Among other things, PCE is designed to elicit verbal descriptions from witnesses. Overall, results from this study replicate those found by Meissner et al. (2001) in demonstrating lower identification performance for participants forced to provide descriptive details. However, no verbal overshadowing was observed for the computerized feature checklist presented as either verbal features or pictorial features. Implications for the development of a computerized system of eyewitness identification are discussed. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.