Verbal Overshadowing and Eyewitness Identification

Verbal overshadowing (VO) refers to situations in which describing a nonverbal experience, such as the appearance of a face, impairs subsequent recognition. In the original demonstration of VO, participants viewed a video of a robbery with a salient perpetrator and were later asked to recognize the perpetrator in a photographic lineup, including seven similar distractors. After viewing the video, half the participants spent 5 minutes writing a description of the robber, while the other half performed an unrelated control task. Remarkably, participants who verbalized the face were significantly less likely to correctly identify the target face among others in the lineup.

Since its original demonstration, considerable research has explored the generality and boundary conditions of VO. VO has been found to generalize to a large variety ...

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