Eyewitness Identification and the Accuracy of the Criminal Justice System

Steven E. Clark, Aaron S. Benjamin, John T. Wixted, Laura Mickes, Scott D. Gronlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses the problem of eyewitness identification errors that can lead to false convictions of the innocent and false acquittals of the guilty. At the heart of our analysis based on signal detection theory is the separation of diagnostic accuracy—the ability to discriminate between those who are guilty versus those who are innocent—from the consideration of the relative costs associated with different kinds of errors. Application of this theory suggests that current recommendations for reforms have conflated diagnostic accuracy with the evaluation of costs in such a way as to reduce the accuracy of identification evidence and the accuracy of adjudicative outcomes. Our framework points to a revision in recommended procedures and a framework for policy analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalPolicy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • criminal justice
  • eyewitness identification
  • eyewitness memory
  • legal decision making
  • public policy
  • theories of memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Eyewitness Identification and the Accuracy of the Criminal Justice System'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this