Post-Docs: Molly Moreland

Faculty Lab: Prof. Steven Clark
E-mail address:
Phone: 827-4136
Office: Olmsted Hall 127

I investigate the strategic components underlying memory decisions via two lines of experimental research: decision processes in eyewitness identification, and recognition memory and choice.

I take a theory-driven experimental approach to examining the decision strategies used by eyewitnesses. For 30 years, the dominant theory in eyewitness identification suggested that witnesses who compared lineup members to each other would have a tendency to use a relative decision rule (identify the lineup member who is the best match to memory), which increased errors and decreased accuracy; whereas those who could not make comparisons would use an absolute decision rule (identify the lineup member whose match to the memory trace of the perpetrator exceeds a criterion) which increased accuracy (Wells, 1984). Contrary to this view, my research showed that comparisons between lineup members improved accuracy depending on the composition and arrangement of the lineup. For example, a condition that surrounded suspects with high-similarity neighboring foils (designed to facilitate comparisons between the best-matching lineup members) improved accuracy relative to a condition that surrounded suspects with low-similarity neighboring foils. Further, witnesses instructed to use relative decision rules made more accurate identification decisions compared to those instructed to use absolute decision rules. Further, the relative decision rule advantage was more pronounced when the foils around the suspect were higher similar to the suspect; which suggests that the utility of a comparative strategy may depend on the composition and arrangement of the lineup. My findings contradict the widely held view that relative decision rules increase false identifications and decrease accuracy. Presently, I am expanding my research on decision strategies using recognition memory paradigms and computational modeling.

My second line of research develops and tests a novel theory of decision processes in recognition memory. The central premises are (1) that people presented with stimuli during a memory test weight the features of each test stimulus, placing some amount of weight (representing importance) on features that match and features that mismatch the original study stimulus. (2) When people are uncertain regarding whether a test stimulus is the study stimulus or not, they shift the weight on the features of the stimulus to facilitate a “yes, I have seen that item” or a “no, that item is new” decision. (3) Under conditions of pressure to accept a test stimulus as the target, people increase the weight they placed on matching features and decrease the weight on mismatching features. This facilitates a “yes” decision, allowing people to discount the test stimulus’ features that mismatch those of the study stimulus.  Thus, a stimulus that might otherwise be called “new” may be recognized as “old” if matching features are emphasized and mismatching features are discounted. This line of research (results forthcoming) may have broad implications, as strategic justifications in memory may underlie false identifications, accuracy medical history reporting, and memory errors of populations with traumatic brain injuries or other neuropsychological disorders.

Selected Publications

Mickes, L., Moreland, M. B., Clark, S.E., & Wixted, J. T. (2014). Missing the information needed to perform ROC analysis? Then compute d', not the diagnosticity ratio. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3, 58-62. doi:

Clark, S. E., Moreland, M. B., & Gronlund, S. D. (2013). Evolution of the empirical and theoretical foundations of eyewitness identification reform. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 251-267. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0516-y

Clark, S. E., Brower, G., Rosenthal, R., Hicks, J. M., & Moreland, M. B. (2013). Lineup administrator influences on eyewitness identification and eyewitness confidence. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 2, 158-165. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2013.06.003

Clark, S. E., Moreland, M. B., & Rush, R. A. (2015). Lineup composition and lineup fairness. In T. Valentine & J. Davis, (Eds.), Forensic facial identification: Theory and practice of identification from eyewitnesses, composites and CCTV. New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Clark, S. E., Rush, R. A., & Moreland, M. B. (2013). Constructing the lineup: Law, reform, theory, and data. In B. Cutler (Ed.), Reform of eyewitness identification procedures (pp. 87-112). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Moreland, M. B., & Clark, S. E. (2015). Eyewitness identification: comparing to the neighbors increases accuracy but not confidence. (In preparation)

Moreland, M. B., & Clark, S. E. (2015). Lineup composition and decision strategies in eyewitness identification. (In preparation)

Moreland, M. B., & Clark, S. E. (2015). Neighborhood effects in simultaneous and sequential lineups. (In preparation)