Eyewitness Choosing Behavior: The Role of Ecphoric Experience and Non-Memorial Cues Dissertation

(2015). Eyewitness Choosing Behavior: The Role of Ecphoric Experience and Non-Memorial Cues . 10.25148/etd.FIDC000163

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Cahill, Brian S


  • Researchers’ attempts at understanding the processes underlying witness choosing behavior have focused on applying models that predict that identifications will be primarily driven by memorial factors. However, research has shown that several non-memorial variables affect witness choosing behavior (e.g., administrator influence, clothing bias, co-witness information); thus a full understanding of the processes underlying witness choosing behavior needs to account for these effects. While the memory-based models do attempt to provide explanations for the effects of non-memorial based variables on choosing behavior they all do so within a memorial context. However, I will argue a lineup task is not simply a memory task but a task that allows both memorial and non-memorial variables to impact choosing behavior, with the latter affecting choosing through an inferential process.

    The purpose of the present study was to provide an initial test of a novel, inferential based framework (i.e., the Competition/Corroboration Conceptualization). In short, this framework predicts that the effect of non-memorial cues on choosing behavior will occur via leading witnesses to deliberatively infer who the suspect is, and that the extent to which a deliberative process is engaged is dependent upon the witnesses’ ecphoric experience.

    Study 1 (N = 146) had mock-witnesses view several lineups with non-memorial cues embedded in them; results showed that mock-witnesses engaged in an inferential process by using the cues in the lineup to help guide their choosing behavior. Study 2 (N = 376) had witnesses view either a target-present or target-absent lineup where a non-memorial cue suggested that witnesses should either identify the target, identify a specific filler, or was not included. Witnesses then made an identification decision. Results from study 2 showed that the presence of a non-memorial cue suggesting the suspect’s guilt increased suspect identifications compared to its absence, and importantly, that this effect was greater for witnesses who had a weak ecphoric experience.

    Findings across both studies suggest that an inferential based framework of witness choosing more fully encompasses the underlying nature of witnesses’ phenomenological experience. Practical implications and future directions are discussed.

publication date

  • November 13, 2015


  • cowitness
  • decison making
  • eyewitness
  • memory
  • witness

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)