Mug Books: More Than Just Large Photospreads

Authored by: Hunter A. McAllister

Handbook of Eyewitness Psychology

Print publication date:  October  2006
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9780805881073
eBook ISBN: 9781315805535
Adobe ISBN: 9781317777830


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On the surface, mug books and photospreads seem to be somewhat similar procedures; both involve eyewitnesses looking at mug shots in an attempt to identify a perpetrator. It is perhaps because of the surface similarity to photospreads that research on mug books has been very limited. Why would we need to conduct research on mug books when there is an extensive literature on lineups and photospreads; aren’t mug books just large photo-spreads? In spite of the surface similarities, there are, in fact, significant differences in procedures. Lineups and photospreads (from this point on the term lineup is used as the general term to apply to both lineup and photospread procedures) are used when the police have a suspect. The inclusion of lineup members other than the suspect is for the purpose of protecting an innocent suspect; most lineups contain only six members. In contrast, mug book searches are conducted when the police do not have a suspect; the purpose of having the eyewitness look at the mug book pictures is to find a possible suspect. The hope is that the perpetrator of the crime has been booked for another crime in the past, and the eyewitness will recognize the perpetrator’s mug shot in the process of looking through the mug book—a process that could involve looking through literally thousands of pictures.

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