Picking Someone Out Of A Lineup, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 1 2011 @ 1:10pm

by Patrick Appel

Room For Debate continues the discussion about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Sandra Guerra Thompson fingers racism:

Wrongful convictions because of erroneous identifications have mostly involved innocent African-American men. This is partly because of the group’s disproportionately higher rates of committing violent crimes. But that does not begin to explain the disparity. Racism can infect the investigative process — from how much care is taken to arrest someone fitting the description given by the victim, to the degree of police suggestion used with eyewitnesses, to the care or fear shown by eyewitnesses in making their selections.

Racism surely plays a role in some cases, but there is a more basic reason for misidentification of black men by white victims: we have a harder time remembering the faces of people from racial groups we don't have much contact with.