Clothing Bias in Identification Procedures

A bias in an identification procedure is any factor—other than recognition—that leads witnesses to select a person. Clothing bias can occur whenever someone is viewed in an identification procedure wearing clothing that matches the witness's description of the clothing worn during the crime. A witness may mistakenly select the suspect based on the clothing rather than the physical appearance of the person. Although there is limited research to date, clothing bias has been demonstrated to occur with all three commonly used identification techniques: mug-shot searches, lineups, and showups (the presentation of a single suspect to an eyewitness for identification purposes). This entry will review why clothing bias is a concern for these three procedures and the ways to prevent it.

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