Stanford University

The effects of witness viewpoint distance, angle, and choice on eyewitness accuracy in police lineups conducted in immersive virtual environments

Bailenson, J.N., Davies, A., Beall. A.C., Blascovich, J., Guadagno, R.E., & McCall, C. (2008). The effects of witness viewpoint distance, angle, and choice on eyewitness accuracy in police lineups conducted in immersive virtual environments. PRESENCE: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 17(3), 242-255.

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Abstract

The current study investigated the value of using immersive virtual environment technology as a tool for assessing eyewitness identification. Participants witnessed a staged crime and then examined sequential lineups within immersive virtual environments that contained 3D virtual busts of the suspect and six distractors. Participants either had unlimited viewpoints of the busts in terms of angle and distance, or a unitary view at only a single angle and distance. Furthermore, participants either were allowed to choose the angle and distance of the viewpoints they received, or were given viewpoints without choice. Results demonstrated that unlimited viewpoints improved accuracy in suspect-present lineups but not in suspect-absent lineups. Furthermore, across conditions, post-hoc measurements demonstrated that when the chosen view of the suspect during the lineup was similar to the view during the staged crime in terms of distance, accuracy improved. Finally, participants were more accurate in suspect-absent lineups than in suspect-present lineups. Implications of the findings in terms of theories of eyewitness testimony are discussed, as well as the value of using virtual lineups that elicit high levels of presence in the field. We conclude that digital avatars of higher fidelity may be necessary before actually implementing virtual lineups.

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