A model of mistaken alibis: How innocent alibi providers generate inaccurate alibis

Drew Alexander Leins, Florida International University


This dissertation comprised two experiments, which addressed three main goals: (a) to test a new paradigm for measuring objectively the accuracy of alibis, (b) to explore the effectiveness of three retrieval cues (time only, location only, and time-and-location) in an alibi context, and (c) to explore the metacognitive strategies of innocent alibi providers who experience different financial incentives as well as different motivations for reporting (be informative vs. be convincing). ^ The novel paradigm appears promising: by surreptitiously controlling the whereabouts of future alibi providers during a critical time, objective accuracy measurements were in fact possible. Such accuracy measurements revealed that time-cued retrieval can be devastating to innocent alibi providers. Participants who attempted to recall their whereabouts via a time cue were significantly less accurate than participants who attempted recall via a location cue (Experiment 1). ^ Innocent alibi providers, when cued effectively, may not, however, report their memories differently from memory reporters in non-alibi contexts. When cued effectively, participants who experienced a goal of being convincing did not differ in accuracy from participants who experienced a goal of merely being informative (Experiment 2). Similarly, participants did not differ from one another in accuracy across different levels of financial incentive (Experiment 2). ^ Despite the indistinguishable accuracy rates of alibi providers and non-alibi memory reporters when retrieval was cued effectively, proffering mistaken alibis presents a real risk for innocent suspects. Future research needs to address methods by which that risk can be reduced. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Leins, Drew Alexander, "A model of mistaken alibis: How innocent alibi providers generate inaccurate alibis" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3447445.