The effect of choice reversals on blindness for identification decisions

Anna Sagana*, Melanie Sauerland, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present study examined blindness for identification decisions from target-present (TP) and target-absent (TA) lineups using a field study methodology. Eighty pedestrians were exposed to a staged theft. Subsequently, they were asked to identify the thief and the victim from separate, simultaneous six-person lineups. Their identification decision concerning the thief lineup was manipulated such that participants' selections were exchanged with a previously unidentified lineup member (choice exchange) and lineup rejections were turned into identifications (choice reversal). Participants were 7-10 times less likely to detect choice exchanges (66.7%) compared with choice reversals (11.2%). Furthermore, identification accuracy was not a prerequisite for detection. Thus, rejections and particularly selections made from both TP and TA lineups are susceptible to choice blindness. Finally, our study implies that for blindness in eyewitness identification decisions between-category changes (i.e. choice reversals) are easier to detect than within-category changes (i.e. choice exchanges).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-314
JournalPsychology Crime & Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2016


  • decision-making
  • eyewitness identification
  • selection vs. rejection
  • identification accuracy
  • Blindness phenomena

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