Eyewitness identification: What can a psychologist tell a jury?

Michael McCloskey, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Examines the arguments in favor of experimental psychologists testifying as expert witnesses in cases involving eyewitnesses to inform the jury about problems with eyewitness testimony. Rationales for such use are (1) the assertion the jurors cannot discriminate between accurate and inaccurate witnesses, and (2) the assumption that jurors are too willing to believe eyewitness testimony. The present authors point out that known cases of erroneous conviction due to juror overbelief fail to establish that the frequency is unacceptably high. Other studies indicate that jurors are able to take into account at least some factors that influence witness testimony. Contrary to claims made recently by psychologists and lawyers, it is by no means clear that expert psychological testimony about eyewitnesses would improve jurors' ability to evaluate eyewitness testimony. In fact, it is even possible that this sort of expert testimony would have detrimental effects. A hypothetical example of a prosecutor examining a defense psychologist is presented. (34 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-563
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1983

Keywords

  • role of experimental psychologists as expert witnesses in court cases involving eyewitness identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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