There are numerous times in our criminal justice system that eyewitness testimony can make the difference between conviction and acquittal. When trials contain eyewitness testimony, jurors rely on it heavily, despite holding some erroneous beliefs about the factors that make eyewitnesses more or less accurate. Because jurors rely on those beliefs in evaluating eyewitness credibility and making trial judgments, false convictions in eyewitness cases are not uncommon. Indeed, eyewitness misidentifications lead to more wrongful convictions than all other causes combined.
The third and final class of explanations deals with retrieval-based processes. Research evidence indicates that the CRE reflects different processes and decision strategies occurring at the time of retrieval. More specifically, people rely more on recollection processes, as opposed to familiarity judgments, when deciding whether they have previously seen an own-race (versus an other-race) face. Witnesses also have a lower (i.e., more lenient) response criterion for other-race faces, meaning that they are more willing to make a positive identification for other- race faces than they are for own-race faces. As a result, they make more false alarms for other- race than own-race faces.
In summary, there are a number of different theories hypothesized to explain the CRE, none of which has yet to receive overwhelming support, nor has resulted in the development of appropriate remedies. There is an important practical advantage of retrieval-based explanations of the CRE, namely, that decision processes at retrieval are amenable to system variables like instructions during the lineup procedure. In contrast, cross-race contact and encoding processes are estimator variables that might predict differential performance with targets of different races, but they are much less susceptible to intervention by the criminal justice system. From an applied perspective, procedures that influence cross-race identifications at the retrieval stage could be readily implemented by lineup administrators (e.g., by providing those in a cross-race situation with specialized instructions before the identification).