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Witnesses' Blindness for their Own Facial Recognition Decisions: A Field Study


Correspondence to: Anna Sagana, Section Forensic Psychology, Department of Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. E-mail:


In a field study, we examined choice blindness for eyewitnesses' facial recognition decisions. Seventy-one pedestrians were engaged in a conversation by two experimenters who pretended to be tourists in the center of a European city. After a short interval, pedestrians were asked to identify the two experimenters from separate simultaneous six-person photo lineups. Following each of the two forced-choice recognition decisions, they were confronted with their selection and asked to motivate their decision. However, for one of the recognition decisions, the chosen lineup member was exchanged with a previously unidentified member. Blindness for this identity manipulation occurred at the rate of 40.8%. Furthermore, the detection rate varied as a function of similarity (high vs. low) between the original choice and the manipulated outcome. Finally, choice manipulations undermined the confidence–accuracy relation for detectors to a greater degree than for blind participants. Stimulus ambiguity is discussed as a moderator of choice blindness. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.