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

Criminology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

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