Earwitnesses: the effect of type of vocal differences on correct identification and confidence accuracy


  • Elisabeth Zetterholm Linnaeus University
  • Farhan Sarwar Lund University
  • Valgeir Thorvaldsson University of Gothenburg
  • Carl Martin Allwood University of Gothenburg




voice and speech characteristics, voice lineup, earwitness identification, realism in confidence


Individual voice and speech characteristics are important for earwitness identification. A target-absent line-up with six foils was used to analyse the influence of voice and speech features on recognition. To create ecologically valid conditions for voice recognition, the present study used voices in conversation in the target event and for the foils. The participants were particularly successful in rejecting the two voice foils that were most dissimilar to the target voice in articulation rate and pitch. These two foils were also given somewhat higher confidence judgments than the other foils, although the level of that confidence was still somewhat low. In fact, participants as a collective were underconfident for these two foils but were overconfident for the other foils. In addition, they showed somewhat better ability in their confidence judgments to distinguish correct and incorrect responses for the two most dissimilar foils than for the four foils for which their identification responses were less successful. For the other four foils, which were more similar to the target voice, the participants showed in their confidence judgments very poor ability to distinguish between correct and incorrect identifications. Later positions in the parade were more often (erroneously) identified as the culprit, regardless of the specific foils used in those positions.

Author Biographies

Elisabeth Zetterholm, Linnaeus University

Since 2010 Elisabeth Zetterholm has been working as a senior lecturer and researcher in Swedish as a second language at Linnaeus University, Sweden. Her current research interests focus on pronunciation in second language acquisition. She received her PhD in phonetics at Lund University, Sweden (2003). Her thesis and postdoctoral research concerned voice imitation with a focus on speaker identification and individual features in voice and speech.

Farhan Sarwar, Lund University

Farhan Sarwar received his PhD (2011) in cognitive psychology (eyewitness psychology) from Lund University, Sweden. He is working as an assistant professor at the Department of Psychology, Lund University and at the School of Social and Health Sciences, Halmstad University, Sweden. His research interests include eyewitnesses, earwitnesses, metacognition, judgment and decision-making, decision-making in courts, investigative psychology, deception detection, lie detection and semantic spaces.

Valgeir Thorvaldsson, University of Gothenburg

Valgeir Thorvaldsson received his PhD in psychology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2008. He did his postdoctoral training at the Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He is now working as a faculty researcher and lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg. His main research interests lie within the field of cognitive aging.

Carl Martin Allwood, University of Gothenburg

Carl Martin Allwood, PhD, since 2008 has been professor of psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg and previously professor of psychology at Lund University (1998–2008), both in Sweden. His research mainly concerns social cognitive psychology (including judgment, especially different forms of metacognition, and decision-making as it occurs in everyday life), forensic psychology, culture oriented psychology and research psychology. He has edited several books and has published more than 70 articles in international scientific journals.



How to Cite

Zetterholm, E., Sarwar, F., Thorvaldsson, V., & Allwood, C. M. (2012). Earwitnesses: the effect of type of vocal differences on correct identification and confidence accuracy. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 19(2), 219–237. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.v19i2.219