Selecting fillers on emotional appearance improves lineup identification accuracy

Mock witnesses sometimes report using criminal stereotypes to identify a face from a lineup, a tendency known as criminal face bias. Faces are perceived as criminal-looking if they appear angry. We tested whether matching the emotional appearance of the fillers to an angry suspect can reduce criminal face bias. In Study 1, mock witnesses (n = 226) viewed lineups in which the suspect had an angry, happy, or neutral expression, and we varied whether the fillers matched the expression. An additional group of participants (n = 59) rated the faces on criminal and emotional appearance. As predicted, mock witnesses tended to identify suspects who appeared angrier and more criminal-looking than the fillers. This tendency was reduced when the lineup fillers matched the emotional appearance of the suspect. Study 2 extended the results, testing whether the emotional appearance of the suspect and fillers affects recognition memory. Participants (n = 1,983) studied faces and took a lineup test in which the emotional appearance of the target and fillers was varied between subjects. Discrimination accuracy was enhanced when the fillers matched an angry target’s emotional appearance. We conclude that lineup member emotional appearance plays a critical role in the psychology of lineup identification. The fillers should match an angry suspect’s emotional appearance to improve lineup identification accuracy.