We are innocent victims of our mind's manipulations: on the effects of choice blindness for eyewitness identification

Heather M. McPherson, The College of Wooster


The current research was designed to investigate whether the recently discovered phenomenon of choice blindness (Johansson, Hall, Sikstrom & Olsson, 2005) would extend to decisions made by eyewitnesses for perpetrator identification in a courtroom setting. Based on the existing choice blindness research, it was predicted that the majority of participants would not notice if the perpetrator was substituted for a different suspect than the one they originally identified. The undergraduate students who served as participants in this study we are asked to view a slideshow depicting photographs from a crime scene, and afterward to identify the perpetrator of that crime from a lineup of six suspects. After the perpetrator was identified the participants' choice was secretly switched, leading to the presentation of an entirely different suspect as defendant in the following mock trial procedure. Consistent with previous research and thus confirming the current hypothesis, results show that the majority of participants did not detect the change; consequently demonstrating considerable levels of choice blindness for eyewitness identification. Factors having the potential to affect choice blindness were also examined and are discussed.