The Effect of Mugshot Inspections on Eyewitness Identification Accuracy1


  • 1

    The authors would like to thank Robert Bothwell, Melissa Pigott, and Lt. Bill Taylor of Florida State University Police Department for their assistance in this study.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to John C. Brigham, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32306.


This study assessed the effect of commitment to an earlier mugshot identification on the ability to make a subsequent lineup identification. Shortly after viewing videotape of a staged assault some subjects rated a group of 18 photos for attractiveness, whereas other subjects attempted to identify the assailant publicly or privately in the same (target-absent) set of 18 “mugshot” photos. The remaining subjects had no intervening task. Two days later, all subjects attempted to identify the assailant from a six-person target-present photo lineup which contained their mugshot choice (if made) as well as the original assailant. Lineup identifications were significantly less accurate for subjects who had viewed the intervening mugshots (33% accuracy) than those who had only rated the intervening photos for attractiveness (64% accuracy) or had seen no intervening photos (69% accuracy). When viewing lineups, experimental subjects tended to remain committed to their earlier action of choosing or not choosing anyone from the mugshots. More witnesses who had publicly stated their mugshot choice reproduced their (incorrect) choice at the lineup (78%), than did those who made a private mugshot choice (45%), though this difference was not statistically reliable. Witnesses' confidence in their lineup decision was not significantly related to overall accuracy. Contrary to predictions from self-perception theory, confidence in one's decision decreased significantly as further identifications were attempted.