Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. Inattentional blindness, the failure to become fully aware of an object or event despite its presence in the center of one’s visual field, may render some eyewitnesses unable to accurately describe the culprit of a crime that had occurred right in front of them. The members of Ira Hyman’s research lab explored the relationship between inattentional blindness and the ability to provide accurate eyewitness testimony. We asked participants to watch a video of a staged theft, instructing the experimental groups to either count the number of people wearing white T-shirts or to watch for the theft. Our control group simply watched the video. We assessed the participants' ability to notice the theft, describe the culprit, and identify the culprit. I then quantified their descriptions of the culprit in order to explore whether inattentional blindness leads to a decreased ability to remember details about the event in question. I found that people who had been focused on counting T-shirts were less likely to notice the theft, and were less able to accurately describe the culprit—instances of inattentional blindness.
Tyler, Claire, "Crime Blindness: The Impact of Inattentional Blindness on Eyewitness Description Accuracy" (2017). WWU Honors Program Senior Projects. 51.