Earwitness identification over the telephone and in field settings

A. Daniel Yarmey

Earwitnesses were asked to describe and identify the voice of a young woman to whom they had spoken approximately five minutes earlier either in a naturalistic field setting or over the telephone. Witnesses were given a single tape-recorded voice of either the target or a highly similar foil, or a target present or a target absent six-person voice line-up. Half of the witnesses in the naturalistic settings were given a photograph of the target as a retrieval cue when they attempted to describe and identify the voice of the target. Witnesses gave few descriptions of the speaker’s voice. Voice identification was poor in both types of setting. Those witnesses who were prepared for a memory test were superior to non-prepared witnesses on the subsequent identification test. Photographic retrieval cues did not influence voice descriptions, but did minimize false identifications on the target absent line-up for witnesses prepared for the test. The six-person line-up proved to be significantly superior to the one-person lineup in minimizing false identifications of the most highly similar sounding foil.

[International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. 10:1 (June 2003)]