Eyewitness Identification is a Visual Search Task

John T Wixted*, Edward Vul, Laura Mickes, Brent M Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


The simultaneous 6-pack photo lineup is a standard eyewitness identification procedure, consisting of one police suspect plus five physically similar fillers. The photo lineup is either a target-present array (the suspect is guilty) or a target-absent array (the suspect is innocent). The eyewitness is asked to search the six photos in the array with respect to a target template stored in memory (namely, the memory of the perpetrator’s face). If the witness determines that the perpetrator is in fact in the lineup (detection), the next step is to specify the position of the perpetrator’s face in the lineup (localization). The witness may also determine that the perpetrator is not present and reject the lineup. In other words, a police lineup is a detection-plus-localization visual search task. Signal detection concepts that have long guided thinking about visual search have recently had a significant impact on our understanding of police lineups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Vision Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Feb 2021


  • eyewitness identification
  • visual search
  • ROC analysis
  • photo lineups
  • discriminability


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