Spotlight

Spotlight

Each month, the Office of Sponsored Programs will spotlight a different PI and their research. If you are interested in being featured in our next spotlight, please email sponsoredprograms@jjay.cuny.edu. Please be sure to provide us with an abstract (3-5 paragraphs) about your research, explanation of your recent project, the amount your project (s) were funded for, special events that you are hosting or coordinating, obstacles or challenges you faced during the application process, if applicable, and a photo of yourself.   

Image of spotlights


Margaret B. Kovera, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology

John Jay College of  Criminal Justice

Margaret Bull Kovera is a Presidential Scholar and Professor in the Psychology Department at John Jay College. For over 25 years, she has had continuous funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research on eyewitness identification, jury decision-making, and scientific evidence.
 
DNA exonerations of innocent individuals have consistently implicated eyewitness misidentification as a leading cause of wrongful conviction. A key factor producing these eyewitness misidentifications is social influence, or the process by which interactions with a police investigator affect eyewitnesses’ identification decisions. In an attempt to reduce social influences in eyewitness identification, researchers have recommended the implementation of double-blind lineup procedures in which the lineup administrator does not know which lineup member is under suspicion. However, even double-blind lineup administrators sometimes engage in behaviors that could influence eyewitness decision-making.
 
Recently, Dr. Kovera was funded by the NSF to study whether double-blind lineups are sufficient to prevent social influence processes from increasing the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. The total award is for $400,000, with $199,619 coming directly to John Jay through the Research Foundation of CUNY. She will be conducting this research in collaboration with Assistant Professor Laura Smalarz of Arizona State University. Their project will test whether double-blind lineups are sufficient to prevent social influence from increasing mistaken eyewitness identifications, a series of experiments that will examine whether social-influence processes still influence witnesses’ identification decisions in double-blind lineups.
 
The findings from these studies could support the development of more effective policy reforms by demonstrating a need to move toward fully computerized administration of eyewitness identification procedures, a practice that has yet to be adopted by law enforcement agencies in the United States. Ph.D, students Jennifer Jones and Eliana Aronson from the Psychology and Law doctoral program will be supervising the data collection efforts for these projects, which will also provide opportunities for John Jay master’s and undergraduate students to gain research experience. 
 
Dr. Kovera has been a professor at John Jay College since 2004. She has won a number of awards and honors for her scholarship, including the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS) Book Award, and is a Fellow of AP-LS, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. She has published her research widely, including in such peer-reviewed journals as Law and Human Behavior, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Psychology, Public Policy and Law, and more.