Press release

The forensic psychology research team at ÅAU studies eyewitness reliability at the science center Heureka

During 26.10-23.12.2018, visitors at the Finnish science center Heureka in Vantaa can experience what it is like to act as an eyewitness. At the same time, they will help researchers reach a better understanding of the factors that influence the reliability of eyewitnesses. The research project is highly relevant, since eyewitness identifications of suspects play a significant role in legal processes around the world and many questions remain concerning how they should be assessed.

Researchers at Åbo Akademi University are conducting the experiment, which is part of a larger research project concerning eyewitness identification. The experiment is designed to investigate the relation between distance, lighting conditions, and masked faces on the reliability of eyewitness identifications. In other words, how well, after seeing a person, you can later describe and identify them.

Each participant will see four target individuals, with different degrees of facial masking, who will be placed at a specific distance and under specific lighting conditions. After witnessing each target person, a digital line-up will be conducted using the same methods employed by the police in criminal investigations. In addition, participants will be asked to estimate the distance to the target individual and describe some of their characteristics. Finally, participants will be told how many correct identifications they made.

The results from our experiment at Heureka in 2017 showed that an increase in distance had a drastic negative impact on correct identifications. This year we expect that the combination of different distances, lighting conditions and masked faces will give us a more nuanced view of how different external factors affect identification mistakes, says Thomas Nyman, doctoral student in psychology at Åbo Akademi University.

Thomas Nymanis coordinating the experimental design at Heureka, and together with Docent Julia Korkman and assistant Elsa Korkman he is overseeing the conducting of the experiment.

Julia Korkman, who leads the international research project, is very enthusiastic about the collaboration with Heureka.

Our collaboration during the summer of 2017 was incredibly successful and we are very grateful that Heureka is interested in continuing working with us. One of the advantages is that we can test people of all ages, which is important, especially considering the small amount of research that has been done concerning especially children and older adults in eyewitness research. It is also a unique opportunity to work with the public and to simultaneously underline the importance to society of scientific research carried out at universities.

The eyewitness experiment is being conducted at Heureka during 26.10-23.12.2018. The experiment is administered in Swedish, Finnish and English and is suitable for children above the age of 5 years. The experiment takes an estimated 10 minutes. The eyewitness experiment is included in Heurekas admission ticket.

The research project is funded by the Academy of Finland (1.9.2016-31.8.2019). The research team consists of Docent Julia Korkman (Åbo Akademi University, principal investigator), Professor Pekka Santtila (New York University, Shanghai), PsD Jan Antfolk (Åbo Akademi University), Professor James Lampinen (Arkansas University) and doctoral student Thomas Nyman (Åbo Akademi University).

Find out more about the collaboration in the following video:

or on Heurekas webpage:


More info:

Julia Korkman
Docent, psychology, Åbo Akademi
Tel.: +358 40 509 2383

Thomas Nyman
Doctoral student, psychology, Åbo Akademi
Tel.: +358 50 347 5042