Current Research

Police lineups and distinctive features


When describing a perpetrator, eyewitnesses often refer to a perpetrator’s distinctive facial features or markings. In these cases, the police have to decide how best to create a fair lineup or photospread. There is surprisingly little research, however, on how distinctive facial features influence eyewitness identification behaviour and accuracy. Might the presence or absence of such a feature disrupt the normal mechanisms by which we recognise unfamiliar faces? Since 2009, I have been working with students and colleagues to  examine how distinctive features influence our ability to identify faces. This research has important implications for our  understanding of human memory and practical implications for police practice and policy.

Relevant publications

*indicates student under my supervision.

*Colloff, M. F., Wade, K. A., & Strange, D. (2016).  Unfair lineups make witnesses more likely to confuse innocent and guilty suspects. Psychological Science, 27, 1227-1239.

Badham, S. P., Wade, K. A., *Watts, H. J. E., *Woods, N. G., & Maylor, E. A. (2013). Replicating distinctive facial features in lineups: Identification performance in young versus older adults. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 289-295.

*Zarkadi, T., Wade, K. A., & Stewart, N. (2009). Creating fair lineups for suspects with distinctive features. Psychological Science, 20, 1448-1453.

False memories of childhood experiences


My longest running line of research explores how and why people might come to remember wholly false childhood experiences. I have worked with several memory experts in the UK and around the world to investigate a range of issues, including: What is the power of doctored photos to induce memory distortions? Childhood amnesia precludes us from recalling events in our early childhood, but might it make us more susceptible to developing false memories? Is there some defining characteristic that might enable psychologists to distinguish between genuine and distorted memories? What is the phenomenological experience of remembering fictitious events? How do people verify autobiographical memories that are brought into question?

Relevant publications

Wade, K. A., Garry, M., & Pezdek, K. (in press). De-constructing rich false memories of crime: Commentary on Shaw and Porter (2015). Psychological Science.

Wade, K. A., Nash, R. A., & Garry, M. (2014). People consider reliability and cost when verifying their autobiographical memories Acta Psychologica, 146, 28-34.

Wade, K. A., Garry, M., Nash, R. A., & Harper, D. (2010). Anchoring effects in the development of false childhood memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 66-72.

Wade, K. A., Garry, M., Read, J. D., & Lindsay, D. S. (2002). A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using False Photographs to Create False Childhood Memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 597-603.

Police evidence disclosure

When interviewing suspects, the police might withhold certain forms of evidence or strategically release evidence late in the interview process to help them detect whether or not the suspect is lying. While some psychological experts who specialise in deception detection encourage the police to strategically disclose evidence to suspects, many criminal defence lawyers oppose this type of deception detection strategy because they believe it undermines the suspect’s legal rights. Unsurprisingly, lawyers want the police to reveal evidence earlier in the interview process, preferably before questioning the suspect, so that lawyers can best advise the suspect on what to say during the interview. Although psychologists and lawyers have wildly conflicting views about when the police should disclose their evidence, very few psychological and legal experts have worked together to reconcile these issues. So that’s what I’m doing. In a new line of collaborative research with my colleague, Prof Jackie Hodgson (Warwick Law School), and PhD student, Divya Sukumar, I have been exploring the broader implications of strategically disclosing evidence to suspects. In particular, we’ve been asking how the strategic release of evidence affects suspects and the legal advice that they are given.

Relevant publications

*Sukumar, D., Hodgson, J. & Wade, K. A. (2017). Behind closed doors: Live observations of current police disclosure practices and lawyer-client consultations. Criminal Law Review, 900-914.

*Sukumar, D., Hodgson, J. S., & Wade, K. A. (2016). How the timing of police evidence disclosure impacts custodial legal advice. International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 20, 200-216.

*Sukumar, D., Wade, K. A., & Hodgson, J. S. (2016). Strategic disclosure of evidence: Perspectives from Psychology and Law. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 22, 306-313.

Fabricated digital evidence and memory


In false memory studies, participants are often asked to imagine fictitious events or they are exposed to false evidence that indicates those events occurred (e.g., bogus questionnaire feedback). Both techniques are highly suggestive, but there is still a lot to learn about different forms of suggestion, particularly fabricated digital evidence. Image-manipulation technology has advanced rapidly in previous years, and during this time I have been working with colleagues and graduate students on a variety of projects that investigate how fabricated digital evidence—including manipulated photos and videos—influence people’s beliefs, memories and behaviours. Our research has examined many interesting questions, including: Which form of evidence—verbal vs. pictorial—is more likely to play havoc with memory? What are the mechanisms underlying memory change? Could fabricated evidence induce people to confess to a crime they never committed or to testify about events they never witnessed? Do environmental factors affect the power of fabricated evidence (e.g.,  timing of presentation, the nature of the “misinformation” messenger)?

In 2015, my interest and research into fabricated photographs took a new turn. I am currently working with my colleague, Dr Derrick Watson (a visual cognition expert at Warwick University) and PhD student, Sophie Nightingale, to learn more about people’s ability to determine whether or not a photograph has been manipulated. We are in the process of publishing this research, but the take-home messsage, so far, is this: people are very poor at detecting various types of photo manipulations!

Relevant publications

*Wright, D., Nash, R. A., & Wade. K. A. (2015). Encouraging eyewitnesses to falsely corroborate allegations: Effects of rapport-building and incriminating evidence. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 21, 21, 648-660.

*Wright, D., Wade, K. A., & Watson, D. (2013). Delay and Déjà Vu: Timing and Repetition Increase the Power of False Evidence. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Wade, K. A., *Green, S., & *Nash, R. A. (2010). Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 899-908.

*Nash, R. A., Wade, K. A., & Lindsay, D. S. (2009). Digitally manipulating memory: Effects of doctored videos and imagination in distorting beliefs and memories. Memory & Cognition, 37, 414-424.