Racial Bias Increases False Identification of Black Suspects in Simultaneous Lineups

Joseph A. Vitriol, Jacob Appleby, Eugene Borgida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


People are better able to correctly identify the faces of individuals who belong to their own race. Research linking the cross-race effect in face recognition to racial attitudes has been limited to explicit measures and sequential presentation formats. Using a simultaneous lineup task, our results from two studies revealed a systematic relationship between explicit racial bias and increased false identification of Black faces. We observed inconsistent evidence to suggest that individual differences in implicit attitudes impact judgments of Black faces. Nevertheless, nonconscious activation of crime-related concepts prior to encoding facial targets impaired White perceivers’ accuracy for Black faces. Nonconscious priming of crime concepts did not affect White perceivers’ judgments of White faces. Thus, among Whites, racial bias, as a function of both individual differences and contextual cues, can increase the false identification of Black faces in simultaneous lineups. Theoretical and legal implications for face recognition and eyewitness memory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-734
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Kyle Kurowski for his role in the initial study concept; Thomas Lindsey, Andrew Sell, Pernu Menheer, and Alica Hofelich Mohr for software design; SPSSI for supporting this research program; Christian Meissner (Iowa State) and Matthew Palmer (University of Tasmania) for statistical advise; Whitney Thurman for standardizing the photos; and our RAs Colin Farley, Michael Swenson, Jamie White, Chelsea Wahl, Harold Melcher, Hami Lee, and Hayden Lim Joon. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Research Grant-in-Aid.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • eyewitness memory
  • face perception
  • intergroup attitudes
  • priming
  • racial attitudes


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