Models of lineup memory

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Face recognition memory is often tested by the police using a photo lineup, which consists of one suspect, who is either innocent or guilty, and five or more physically similar fillers, all of whom are known to be innocent. For many years, lineups were investigated in lab studies without guidance from standard models of recognition memory. More recently, signal detection theory has been used to conceptualize lineup memory and to motivate receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis of lineup performance. Here, we describe three competing signal-detection models of lineup memory, derive their likelihood functions, and fit them to empirical ROC data. We also introduce the notion that memory signals generated by the faces in a lineup are likely to be correlated because, by design, those faces share features. The models we investigate differ in their predictions about the effect that correlated memory signals should have on the ability to discriminate innocent from guilty suspects. A popular compound signal detection model known as the Integration model predicts that correlated memory signals should impair discriminability. Empirically, this model performed so poorly that, going forward, it should probably be abandoned. The best-fitting model incorporates a principle known as "ensemble coding," which predicts that correlated memory signals should enhance discriminability. The ensemble model aligns with a previously proposed theory of eyewitness identification according to which the simultaneous presentation of faces in a lineup enhances discriminability compared to when faces are presented in isolation because it permits eyewitnesses to detect and discount non-diagnostic facial features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-114
Number of pages34
JournalCognitive Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science


  • Facial Recognition/physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • ROC Curve
  • Recognition (Psychology)/physiology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological

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