After observing a crime, eyewitnesses may conduct their own investigation on social media to search for the perpetrator. The current study examined exposure to an innocent suspect on social media and its effect on performance at a formal lineup. Participants observed a staged crime then were randomly assigned to view social media profiles of innocent people, a mugbook of innocent people, or no photos of innocent people (control). Following a short delay, participants completed a lineup procedure. The results show that social media exposure increased innocent suspect identifications at the lineup compared to mugbook exposure and controls. Correct identification of the perpetrator was unaffected by social media and mugbook exposure. Ultimately, the legal system should exercise caution when eyewitnesses who conduct their own investigations on social media are permitted to complete a formal identification procedure. Viewing an innocent suspect on social media can increase the chance of a mistaken identification.
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Thesis advisor: Fitzgerald, Ryan
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