by Jacob Barrett
The National Science Foundation (“NSF”) awarded University of Arkansas Professor James Lampinen, and a team of researchers, just under$670,000 to study the relationship between eyewitness confidence and accuracy across a range of variables using virtual reality.
Professor Lampinen and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Oklahoma State University Kara Moore will serve as principal investigators for the three-year study.
The study will probe the “pristine-conditions hypothesis,” which suggests that high-confidence witness identifications will be“remarkably accurate” when identification procedures are optimal.
Optimalprocedures include things like using people in police lineups who are plausible alternatives to the suspect; using double-blind administration, in which neither the administrator nor the eyewitness know who the suspect is; and receiving no lineup instructions, such as letting witnesses know that there’s no obligation to choose a suspect in a lineup.
“Eyewitness identification is crucial evidence in thousands of criminal cases per year, ”Lampinen explained. “For years now. I have been working with law enforcement on optimizing the procedures that can be used to collect eyewitness identification evidence. The research funded by the [NSF] will provide an exciting opportunity to better understand when identifications are likely to be accurate or inaccurate. Ultimately, that will lead to a more just criminal justice system.”
Researchers will use virtual reality equipment to simulate different scenarios, including varying the distance and viewing time of a scripted incident, as well as the ages and races of the actors involved, incorporating cross-race and same-race situation.
According to Lampinen, virtual reality is important because it “can mimic emotional experiences similar to those encountered in real environments.”Virtual reality can be used to track eye movements and measure physiological responses to the presence of weapon to evaluate what is happening on an unconscious level.
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