Line-Up Image Position in Simultaneous and Sequential Line-Ups: The Effects of Age and Viewing Distance on Selection Patterns

It is known that children and older adults produce more false alarms in target absent line-ups and that weaker facial encoding increases choosing bias. However, there has been no investigation of how age or facial encoding strength impacts line-up position selections in either sequential or simultaneous line-ups. In the present study, we presented participants with four live targets (one by one) while manipulating sequential and simultaneous line-ups between participants and target present and target absent line-ups within participants. In order to investigate facial encoding strength, we presented the targets at distances between 5 and 110 m. Our main hypotheses were that children due to deficits with inhibition would be more biased toward indiscriminate selections in the first position of sequential line-ups compared with subsequent line-up positions and that first position selections would increase for all age groups as facial encoding became weaker. In simultaneous line-ups, we expected to find a top row bias. In our sample (N = 1,588 participants; 6–77 years), we found that younger children (6–11 years) and the oldest adults (60–77 years) showed a first position bias in sequential line-ups, and as facial encoding became weaker, all age groups (6–11, 12–17, 18–44, 45–59, and 60–77 years) showed an increased tendency to make first position selections. We also found a weak top row preference in simultaneous line-ups, which was moderated by age and increased distance. The main finding is that the results suggest that younger children and the oldest adults had a tendency toward a first position selection bias in sequential line-ups. Based on the combined results, we recommend caution when using sequential line-ups with younger children or older adults.

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