Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


James Michael Lampinen

Committee Member

William Levine

Second Committee Member

Darya Zabelina


Eyewitness Testimony, False Memories, Familiarity, Memory, Psychology and Law


According to The Innocence Project, 69% of DNA exonerations in the United States involved mistaken eyewitness identification as a contributing factor to these errant convictions. Psychologists have contributed towards minimizing mistaken identifications by proposing best practices that law enforcement still follow today. One understudied cause of mistaken eyewitness identification is unconscious transference (UT). UT is a memory error in which a person encountered in an innocent context becomes confused with a person seen in a guilty context (Loftus, 1976). Past research has established some boundary conditions for when UT can occur; however, the limited methodology has resulted in narrow conclusions that do not fully account for all instances of UT. This study builds upon past research to establish a novel paradigm for understanding UT. Additionally, this study introduces how familiarity may be a critical factor in causing instances of UT. The results reveal that this novel paradigm reliably captures instances of UT and demonstrates that having familiarity with a suspect can lead to UT errors. Furthermore, this study finds support for the memory blending theoretical approach of UT. Through the discussion, the stark difference between familiar suspect identification and stranger suspect identification are revealed. Additionally, I propose considerations for future research and how cases with familiar suspects should be handled in the future.