Factors Affecting Lay Persons’ Identification Of Speakers

A. Daniel Yarmey

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Factors Affecting Lay Persons’ Identification Of Speakers

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Phonetics and Phonology


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A perpetrator speaking over the telephone or one whose face was obscured or disguised are examples of incidents that might lead to testimony on voice identification. Earwitness identification is part of the general area of person identification, but refers specifically to victims' and witnesses' verbal descriptions of voices and speaker identification. Although many laypersons give significantly more credibility to the identification of speakers than is justified, experts generally agree that earwitness descriptions and identification should be treated by the criminal justice system with great caution. This article presents a scientific overview of factors that affect the accuracy of speaker identification, or what is referred to as aural-perceptual analysis, and discusses the reliability and validity of speaker recognition and identification. The police do not have the luxury of handpicking their witnesses (or culprits) but must interview any and all male and female victims or witnesses, all of whom can differ in age, race, expertise, and other characteristics. The article also considers showups and voice lineups.

Keywords: voice identification; testimony; showups; voice lineups; speakers; speaker identification; aural-perceptual analysis; reliability; speaker recognition; witnesses

Article.  3676 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Phonetics and Phonology

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