Expert Psychological Testimony About Eyewitnesses: An Update
Both the overbelief and discrimination rationales make two fundamental claims: Jurors need help in evaluating eyewitness testimony; and expert psychological testimony can provide this help. There are two basic rationales for the use of expert psychological testimony in this area. One is the overbelief rationale. The other basic rationale pertains to discrimination. Many psychologists are apparently swayed by the preceding argument. Kassin, et al. asked a group of 119 psychologists working in the area of eyewitness testimony to indicate their opinions about a variety of issues associated with the accuracy of eyewitness identification. R. C. L. Lindsay and G. L. Wells reviewed the literature on cross-race identification and concluded that the magnitude of the cross-race effect is small. The upshot of the Lindsay and Wells review is that the usual testimony offered by eyewitness experts -- cross-race identification is less accurate than same-race identification -- may not actually be relevant in a real criminal case.