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eyewitness identification, weapon focus effect, encoding time, confidence and accuracy


Crimes can occur in a matter of seconds, with little time available for an eyewitness to encode a perpetrator’s face. The presence of a weapon can further exacerbate this situation. Few studies have featured mock crimes of short duration, especially with a weapon manipulation. We conducted an experiment to investigate the impact of weapon presence and short perpetrator exposure times (3 versus 10 s) on eyewitness confidence and accuracy. We found that recall concerning the perpetrator was worse when a weapon was present, replicating the weapon focus effect. However, there was no effect on eyewitness identification accuracy. Calibration analyses revealed that all conditions produced a strong confidence-accuracy relationship. Confidence- Accuracy Characteristic curves illustrated almost perfect accuracy for suspect identifications at the highest levels of confidence. We conclude that weapon presence during a brief crime does not necessarily result in negative consequences for either eyewitness identification accuracy or the confidence-accuracy relationship.

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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Carlson, C. A., Young, D., Weatherford, D. R., Carlson, M. A., Bednarz, J. & Jones, A. J. (2016). It’s about time: The influence of time to encode a perpetrator versus a weapon on the confidence-accuracy relationship. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(6), 898-910. doi: 10.1002/acp.3275

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