Eyewitness identiifcation; lineups; eyewitness memory; mistaken identification; eyewitness reforms; lineup reforms; lineup procedure; eyewitness confidence; gary wells; gary l. wells

Welcome to my home page, which is also a resource for those interested in eyewitness memory issues.
Scroll down first, then use your cursor to find links and download anything that interests you.

Scroll to the right to find a copy of Wells CV and a biographical sketch



National Science Foundation video on eyewitness identification Wells 2015


APA and NSF bring forensic science to policymakers


NT Times story June 2, 2015


TIME magazine story on the National Academy of Sciences report on eyewitness identification



Ruling from Oregon Supreme Court, November 2012 that throws out the Manson-type approach to eyewitness identification evidence ...

Article in Discover Magazine on Eyewitness Identification, November 2012

Article in American Prospect Magazine on eyewitness identification December 2012

American Bar Association Journal article on eyewitness identification May 2012

New York Times August 28 article on lineups

Listen to NPR story on eyewitness identification

Eyewitness IDs can be made better; Miller McCune news article

Mandatory minimums for lineups...

Florida Innocence Commission Probes Mistaken Identifications



Wells on 60 Minutes


NEW!  "My search as a cop for justice in a flawed criminal justice system" by Sunil Dutta

Story out of Dallas: Witness describes how prosecutor told him which guy to identify. [I have been writing about these problems for over 30 years. These real case discoveries are becoming more commonplace but the reforms that I have been proposing are still being resisted in many jurisdictions across the U.S....]


Boston DA Conley credits double-blind lineup reforms in part for higher conviction rate.

"New approach has convinced jurors that police are more careful about whom they arrest" he said.

Associated Press article Sept, 25, 2009 on New Jersey lineups case


USA Today article on lineups Sept. 19, 2009

Who killed the eyewitness bill in Texas?

Newsweek article on eyewitness identification (March 2009)

Reason article on eyewitness identification April 8, 2009

Georgia law enforcement agrees to eyewitness identification changes...

See Atlanta Constitution article

"During Williams’s trial, the victim was asked, on a scale of one to a hundred, how sure she was that Williams assaulted her." “One hundred and twenty,” she testified. Williams served 21 years in prison before DNA tests cleared him.

Dallas Police Department revamps show-up policy

Justice Project survey shows that only a small percentage of Texas police departments have written eyewitness identification policies and those that do are generally inadequate...
Three Dallas Morning News articles on eyewitness identification- October 12 article,    Oct. 13 article,    Oct. 16 article

May 2008 article in Nature on eyewitness identification research.

JEHT Foundation funds eyewitness identification field experiments

208th DNA exoneration is mistaken ID in Florida

Georgia House approves eyewitness legislation in 2008 Atlanta Progressive News  See also earlier articles:  Atlanta Constitution Atlanta Progressive News

North Carolina adopts lineup reforms

 Justice Project review of eyewitness identification policy

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on composites from March 25, 2007

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette eyewitness story March 12, 2007

New Jersey Supreme Court ruling requires eyewitness ID behavior to be recorded. See Star Ledger article August 1, 2006

Associated Press story on mistaken identification from July 31, 2006
Wrong man executed because of mistaken ID?
Also, see video here
Governing Magazine article on eyewitness reform May 2006
Eyewitness recommendations of the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice
True Witness

Download Wisconsin's new Model Policy for Eyewitness Identification
Was an innocent man executed in Texas based on eyewitness identification? You decide.
U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit upholds Wells' testimony in civil suit  regarding Chicago lineup 
Wisconsin court rules on show-ups
A July 2005 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on show-ups. Click here for the written opinion
Miami Herald article from August 2005 on lineup reforms
Virginia to revamp lineup procedures, story from the Washington Post
Listen to Feb 2005 NPR story on lineups 

Read Chicago Tribune story on lineups from February 17, 2005.

Read story from February 7, 2005 Chicago Tribune on lineups
Jury finds FBI framed man in part via eyewitness evidence; January 2005 article 
January 5, 2005 article on eyewitness identification from Legal Affairs 

Dec. 8, 2004 Christian Science Monitor article on lineups
Police charge man based on witness identification from photo lineup. But he was dead a year before crime occurred: Associated Press story 
Boston Globe article click here Boston Herald article click here

North Carolina law enforcement moving towards double-blind sequential lineups. Article from Durham, NC News and Observer, June 2004.
Scientific American article on lineups, click here

Click to read (April 2003) eyewitness identification article from The Washington Post
Click to read (April 2003) eyewitness identification article from The Economist
Click to read (April 2003) eyewitness identification article from The St. Petersburg Times
Read Newsday article on lineups from February 12, 2003, click here

NOTE: If you are returning to this page, you might need to hit the "refresh" button to ensure that recently added material is visible.

Use this link to download my published articles. 

New article by Wells, Yang, & Smalarz (2015, Law and Human Behavior) gives a Bayesian treatment of eyewitness identification. Findings show that lineups are more proficient at incriminating the guilty than they are at exculpating the innocent. Also, a new type of curve (BREE curves) shows how even modest improvements in the base rate produce increases in the probability of an identification being accurate that exceed the impact of traditional system variables ...

Article by Smalarz & Wells (Current Directions in Psychological Science) on the relation between eyewitness confidence and accuracy and contaminants of that relation

Smalarz & Wells (2014, Law and Human Behavior) article showing that confirming feedback following a mistaken identification impairs memory for the actual culprit.

National Academy of Sciences release of eyewitness identification report. Report strongly endorses the double-blind linep procedure, documenting confidence at the time of the identification (to avoid contaminating it), training law enforcement on memory.... http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18891/identifying-the-culprit-assessing-eyewitness-identification

Download summary news release http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=18891&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nationalacademies%2Fna+%28News+from+the+National+Academies%29


Field experiment on eyewitness identification tests a sequential vs. simultaneous procedure, in press in Law and Human Behavior.

Eyewitnesses (494) to actual crimes in four police jurisdictions ... eyewitness performance overall was very poor ...

Smalarz and Wells (2014, Law and Human Behavior) article reports experimental evidence that confirming postidentification feedback can eliminate observers' abilities to distinguish between accurate and mistaken eyewitness identification testimony.

[Materials from Smalarz & Wells post-identification feedback/testimony (in press) study  (1) screenshots and lineup    (2) testimony script questions ]

New (2014) meta-analysis article on the post-identification feedback effect published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

Police Chief Magazine published an article by Mecklenburg et al. in July 2013 that discussed double blind and sequential lineups. The Mecklenburg et al. article contains some serious misrepresentations and misinformation. This is a link to my commentary on the Mecklenburg et al. article as posted on August 1, 2013.

Wells & Loftus (2013) on witness memory

Forensic Science Testing: The Forensic-Filler Control Method for Controlling Contextual Bias, Etimating Error Rates, and Calibrating Analysts' Reports. Article accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. (by Wells, Wilford, & Smalarz, 2013)

New articles in press (in Perspectives on Psychological Science) addressing Clark's argument that reforms such as the double-blind lineup, unbiased instructions, and so on can reduce "hit rates". The counterargument is that these "hit rates" that he is concerned aobut are not true hits at all but instead were suggestiveness-induced responses and actually represent ill-gotten gains ...

Wells at al article link

Newman & Loftus article link

Meet the double-blind lineup: Notes on the double-blind lineup. What is it? Where did it come from? What is its purpose?. Who is using it?

Charman and Wells (2011) article shows that "duds" in a lineup increase eyewitnesses' certainty in mistaken identifications

Meta-analysis of the simultaneous versus sequential lineup (2011, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law) "...8% fewer accurate identifications but 22% fewer mistaken identifications with sequential. An identification from a sequential is more likely to be accurate..."

NEW New Jersey Supreme Court issues major ruling on eyewitness identification August 24, 2011

2011 chapter by Wells and Penrod on research methods in eyewitness identification research

New research shows fundamental difference between how faces versus other objects are processed (Wilford and Wells, 2010, Psychological Science)

Suggestive Eyewitness Identification Procedures: Why the U.S. Supreme Court Needs to Revisit Manson v. Braithwaite (2009 article published in Law and Human Behavior)

7th Circuit upholds Wells' testimony

A short Q&A with Wells:


More on the Illinois Pilot Project:

(1) The Evanston site gave up its raw data and Nancy Steblay's analysis reveals that assignment of cases was biased against the double-blind sequential. READ THIS ARTICLE

(2) Wells article argues that "...it would never be acceptable to test one procedure (e.g., sequential) that used double-blind techniques and compare the results to another procedure (e.g, simultaneous) that used non-blind techniques." READ THIS ARTICLE

The Duke Lacrosse rape case: How not to do a lineup -- A chapter by Wells, Cutler, and Hasel

What if two witnesses identify the same person? What if one identifies the person and another identifies someone else? Article by Clark and Wells on multiple-witness identifications (Law and Human Behavior)

NEW: The Misidentification of John White

The Duke University lacrosse rape case: Chapter by Wells, Cutler & Hasel, 2009

Article on eyewitnesses published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest

Have a video viewer? Click here to take the Wells eyewitness test

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers files lawsuit to obtain data from departments that participated in Chicago lineups study (February 8, 2006)

Here is the Mecklenburg Report on the study of lineups in Illinois.
Here are my comments on the Mecklenburg Report [Updated May 2006]

Wisconsin Attorney General stays with lineup reforms, rejects relevance of Illinois study. 

Here are Nancy Steblay's observations on the data and interpretations in the Mecklenburg Report.

Two new articles, both in press in Law and Human Behavior
1. Does morphing composite faces produce a better likeness of the culprit than the individual composites?
Stimuli from Hasel and Wells morphing study

2. Does the appearance change instruction improve eyewitnesses' lineup performance?
Appearance-change clips from Charman & Wells experiment

Link to National Science Foundation site describing some of Wells' work

CHAMPION readers: Click here to download the article that I mentioned in the Champion article

Fascinating new (2005) book by James Doyle titled True Witness: Cops, Courts, Science, and the Battle Against Misidentification. Click here for commentary and ordering information.
New experiments show that having eyewitnesses build face composites can damage their ability to make an identification from a lineup. Click here to read manuscript
Memory for People and Events chapter by Wells & Loftus (2003) click here

Article published in Annual Review of Psychology (2003) on eyewitness identification by Wells and Olson, click here to download
Did Scott Peterson murder his wife? What is the evidentiary value of an extra-marital affair? (article by Wells)
New article in press in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. The article concerns the question of how the speed with which eyewitnesses make their identifications relates to the accuracy of the identifications...
The Psychology of Alibis: A taxonomy. This article was published recently in Law and Human Behavior. Click here to view
Article on the distorting effects of feedback on eyewitnesses (Wells, Olson, & Charman, 2003) published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Article on best practices in constructing and conducting lineups, click here
Click here to download a PDF version of the Wells & Olson "Information Gain" article published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2002.
2002 article reports experiment showing lineup feedback harms accuracy-confidence relation (Bradfield, Wells, & Olson, Journal of Applied Psychology) View article here
From the Lab to the Police Station: This is an article published in American Psychologist regarding the role of psychology in developing guidelines for eyewitness evidence. 
What is wrong with the Manson v. Braithwaite (1977)  test of eyewitness identification evidence? Plenty. 

Ken Patanaude, of the Northampton, MA Police Department just published this article regarding their adoption of double-blind, sequential lineups.
Prestigous North Carolina Commission makes recommendations to change lineup procedures! 
Story 1   Story 2 
The National Institute of Justice has now released its eyewitness training manual for law enforcement. I co-chaired the identification section. The Manual is not perfect, and it represented a compromise, but this manual can be quite useful for police trainers. Use this address to view and download:  http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/eyewitness/188678.html

NEW! Minnesota departments try new lineup procedures
June 2003 Wall Street Journal story, click here
Have a video viewer? Click here to take the Wells eyewitness test
No video viewer? take this one instead click here

Click HERE to download the Department of Justice Guide for the Collection and Preservation of Eyewitness Evidence

Drivers' licenses being used to construct photo lineups; click here

click for additional photos
For a recent version of my 
curriculum vita click here.

For a short biographical sketch of Gary Wells, click here

Wells appointed as the Wendy and Mark Stavish Chair in Social Sciences

Wells receives Honorary Doctorate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (May 2008)


Gary L. Wells is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and the Wendy and Mark Stavish Chair in Social Sciences at Iowa State University

  Gary L. Wells is past President of the American Psychology-Law Society


face composite of Wells
click for humorous image
Gary L. Wells, Ph.D. 
Professor of Psychology
Distinguished Professor 
of Liberal Arts and Sciences
E-mail Gary Wells

Mailing address:
Psychology Department 
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
phone: 515-294-6033
fax: 515-294-6424

Click here to read an article on eyewitness identification from the New Yorker magazine January 8, 2001

Click here to view video from CBS News on Eyewitness Identification Procedures 
Click here to read an article on eyewitness expert testimony from the August 10, 2001 Wall Street Journal 

After reading the Wall Street Journal article, click here to read my comments.

An article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on eyewitness reseaerch.

New Jersey Adopts Sequential and Blind Testing With Lineups! Read this article from July 21 NEW YORK TIMES
Read New Jersey Guidelines and cover letter from Attorney General Farmer here
Here is an editorial on the New Jersey Guidelines

Click here to view a video that discusses problems with eyewitness identification. It takes a few minutes to load, but it is worth it
Does the sequential lineup reduce accurate identifications in addition to reducing mistaken identifications? Yes, but...(click here)

UK police hold dog lineup!

An analysis of the 100+ DNA exoneration cases click here
Click here to see the Illinois Governor's Commission Recommendations for lineups (they begin with recommendation 10). These are worth reading.

Eyewitness Expert testimony rulings in selected states, click here

NEW Texas judge sees merit in proposed lineup reforms; click here

Click here to read a 30 May, 2002 article from the Christian Science Monitor on lineups.
NEW: Atlantic Monthly article by Margaret Talbot calls for sequential lineups and blind testing. Click here


Frequently asked questions about eyewitness identification

Charman & Wells JEP:A lineup photos used

"Eyewitness Expertise on Trial" article from the ABA Journal (American Bar Association Journal) 

Canadian Judge Rules That Lineup Should Have Been Conducted Using Blind Procedure! (click here)

New York continues to struggle with issue of lineup reforms: December 10, 2002 Newsday article click here.

Baltimore Sun article on eyewitness identification


Oct. 16 story on eyewitnesses in DC area sniper case

USA Today front page article from Nov. 26, 2002 on eyewitness identification procedures click here 

See NY Law Journal article (from 4/29/02) describing Staten Island's first sequential lineup (click here)

Click here to listen to an NPR story on eyewitness identification from June 2000

Click HERE to read an article on eyewitness identification published in the APA Monitor

Click here to read a second article (Feb. 25, 2000 issue) on eyewitness identification from The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Check out this LA Times story from July 19, 2000.  Click Here

The Psychology of Alibis  Interested?  Then click here.

Who were the eyewitness researchers involved in the Department of Justice guidelines project?
 Click here.

Image:  Nice lineup! Click here

For a copy of a recent article concerning stimulus sampling as a research methodology issue, click here.
Expert Testimony on Eyewitness Issues For those interested in expert testimony or consulting on eyewitness issues, please read this expert services information page.

Click here to view an article from the NY Daily News (July 27, 2000) in which eyewitness identification and a confession are proven false by a video alibi!

Click here to view a December 2000 New York Times article on an eyewitness case
Man who was mistakenly identified dies in Florida prison before DNA tests prove him innocent. Click here to view December 16, 2000 Miami Herald article

Click here to see an example of a biased and an unbiased lineup.

DNA to the rescue:  When an innocent suspect is identified by a confident eyewitness as being the perpetrator of a crime, there may be little to keep that person from being convicted.  Once convicted, there is little hope for later exoneration. Since the advent of forensic DNA evidence, however, some people who were mistakenly identified by eyewitnesses and convicted by juries have been released from prison because the newly-analyzed DNA evidence proved that they did not commit the offense.  Under the aegis of the National Institute of Justice, a study was made of 28 cases of wrongful conviction. 
Click here to read this report titled "Convicted by juries: Exonerated by Science".
Notice:  A review of scientific research on eyewitnesses has resulted in a set of guidelines for how lineups and photo spreads should be constructed and conducted. You can download this document. See panel to the right.
In 1996, the American Psychology/Law Society appointed a committee to prepare a white paper reviewing the scientific evidence on eyewitness identification and describing rules for how lineups and photo spreads should be conducted.  This paper, authored by Gary Wells, Mark Small, Steve Penrod, Roy Malpass, Sol Fulero, and Elizabeth Brimacombe, was published in the journal Law and Human Behavior in December 1998.  The following link takes you to the text of this paper:  Scientific Review of Lineups paper, click here.
Tired of reading? Want to sit back and hear some interesting things about the reliability of eyewitnesses? If you have Real player 2.0 or higher (which allows you to listen to audio over your computer), then you will want to check out this story that was broadcast on NPR (National Public Radio) in June 1998. Simply click here: "mistaken eyewitnesses story broadcast on NPR"

If you do not have Real player, use the following download site and save the Real player program on your hard drive at no cost.
After you have saved Real player,  then come back and click on "mistaken eyewitnesses story broadcast on NPR" (above)

TWGEYE members click here for collages from San Francisco
Flashback 1968 image


Although psychological scientists have been studying human memory for over 100 years, not until the mid 1970's that a focus was directed to eyewitness memory. The importance of such research is easily substantiated because mistaken identification is the largest single cause of false conviction, accounting for more criminal convictions of innocent people than all other causescombined (see Wells, Small, Penrod, Malpass, Fulero, & Brimacombe, 1998). 

My eyewitness research program was launched in 1974 while still a graduate student.   It is directed at discovering the causes of mistaken identification from police lineups and photo spreads with a particular emphasis on how to prevent these errors. Numerous successful interventions have been developed, such as:

  • Improved instructions to eyewitnesses 
  • Improved techniques for structuring lineups and photo spreads
  • Safeguards for insuring the integrity of the administration of lineups and photo spreads.
This research has produced a large number of advances, such as developing a better understanding of  the tenuous link between confidence and accuracy in eyewitness identification, describing the origins of false confidence, defining the domain of variables that control accuracy, and proposing and developing new lineup procedures, such as the dual-lineup procedure as well as the sequential-lineup procedure. 
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