Home > Memory > How to steal exit signs and escape being identified by eyewitnesses (A Satirical Post)

How to steal exit signs and escape being identified by eyewitnesses (A Satirical Post)

steal-signMany say that college is the time to relax and make memories before the work begins and the soul dies. However, the average and uncreative college student will spend these precious four years binge drinking cheap beer and making a mockery out of the fine sport that is Ping-Pong. I say, why aim for a hangover that will eventually leave you when you can have a stolen exit sign from the Alfond Complex that will be your lifetime companion? Yes, fellow Colby students, it’s about time that we bring it up a notch and follow the philosophy of Nate Ruess from the indie band Fun, which encourages youth to “set the world on fire.” While you “set the world on fire,” it is best not to be seen by others. However, that is a hard feat to accomplish, as dorms are usually high traffic areas. It is best to expect the presence of witnesses to the crime and take the proper precautions. This how-to article will teach you the proper ways to steal exit signs while decreasing the chances of being identified by eyewitnesses.

Eyewitness testimony plays a big role in many forensic cases and plays a big role in the courtroom, so it is an important thing to know about as a startup criminal. Luckily, many factors decrease the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. There are many factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, which include perpetrator factors, witness factors, viewing conditions, delay intervals, post-event misinformation, and etc. In part one of this how-to article, I will talk about how to use your race to your advantage. The key is to use scapegoats. 75% of wrongful convictions were found in a review of DNA exonerations. Of those who were wrongfully committed 40% were involved with cross-race identification. This how-to will teach you how to tap into this resource. In general, accuracy rates are lower for cross-race incidents. In this civilization where being a minority is seen as a disadvantage, it’s nice that there is an advantage after all. It will be your ticket to a new exit sign.


Here are ways you can decrease accuracy of eyewitness testimony using your race:

1)   Steal the exit sign in the presence of students of a difference race

This is of course a good idea, but how does this help you not get caught? Results in Horry and Wright (2008) gives evidence that for cross-race recall, even when witnesses can remember the suspects face, their memory for where the face was seen is impaired when compared to same-race recall. It means that even if they saw your face, they will not be able to confidently place you in the Alfond Complex.

2)   Steal the exit sign in a way that is as racially stereotypical as possible

How will this help you? Results from Osborne and Davies (2013) suggests that when someone of a different race witnesses you committing a stereotypical crime, their memory for you will become more stereotypical. This means that their memory of your face will look less like your face and more like a stereotypical face of your race.

3)   Steal the exit sign with accomplices of your own race

Usually the extra accomplice will just add to your issues, but the addition of these friends will make you less memorable when witnessed by someone of another race. Pezdek, O’Brien, and Corey Wasson (2011) found evidence that specifically for cross-race identification group conditions leads to a decrease in accuracy. When the group includes people of the same race that is more ideal.


I hope these tips help you on your journey to creating memories here in college!


Note: This how-to article is meant to be satirical. Please do not take it seriously and steal an exit sign from the Alfond Complex or any other on-campus buildings. Though statistics and the findings from the articles are true, the interpretation is wrong. The truth of the matter is that eyewitness testimony for cross-races are less accurate, but in many studies this is not found to be caused by difference between hit rates but instead due to increased false alarms in the cross-race condition. This means that more innocent people are put into jail because of mistakes made in cross-race identification. Yes, this is definitely another disadvantage of being a minority race in the United States, but I hope this will further deter people from committing crimes, as it will lead to conviction of innocent.


Hope, L. (2010). Eyewitness testimony. In G. J. Towl, D. A. Crighton (Eds.) , Forensic psychology (pp. 160-177). Wiley-Blackwell.

Pezdek, K., O’Brien, M., & Wasson, C. (2012). Cross-race (but not same-race) face identification is impaired by presenting faces in a group rather than individually. Law and Human Behavior, 36(6), 488-495. doi:10.1037/h0093933

Osborne, D., & Davies, P. G. (2013). Eyewitness identifications are affected by stereotypes about a suspect’s level of perceived stereotypicality. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16(4), 488-504.

Horry, R., & Wright, D. B. (2008). I know your face but not where I saw you: Context memory is impaired for other race faces. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(3), 610-614. doi:10.3758/PBR.15.3.610

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  1. March 19th, 2014 at 15:33 | #1

    I really love the ironic tone of your post, it was truly entertaining to read and consistent throughout. I also appreciated the way you listed out three different steps that can lead to decreasing the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, I think it made your post very succinct and easy to understand. Giving examples relevant to Colby College students at the end of each point further clarified your post. My one critique is that I want to know more about the cognitive processes going on in those eyewitness testimonies. Why do the authors of the articles you read think eyewitnesses testimonies are significantly influenced by race? How is memory actively or passively being influenced? In class we discussed the same-race effect (Harrison & Hole, 2009) wherein participants are more likely to recognize a person of their own race rather than someone of a different race. The same-race effect may be due to the fact that we become experts at distinguishing the important features of our own race, we often times have more exposure to our own race, or we have a motivation to attend to the features of our own race. If the eyewitness is the same race as the criminal stealing the sign, would the tips you provided above no longer be useful in decreasing the accuracy of eyewitness testimony? Or, if the cop is of a minority race and it has been seen as an advantage or motivation to attend to the features of typically white faces throughout this person’s life, and they see a white college student trying to steal a sign, would they possibly be more capable at distinguishing the criminal? Similar to the way Wright et al (2003) found that despite similar exposure only white students had an own-race bias compared to black students who did not.

  2. March 20th, 2014 at 13:46 | #2

    The tone throughout is really great; it’s funny, readable, and informative. I actually think that the omission of some of the more super-specific processes actually worked out well. I feel as though the purpose of this post is to give a brief overview of a topic in as concise and accessible a format as possible, and I don’t think that the tone would work quite as well as it does were it more fact-heavy. One thing, I did not really like, though, was the final disclaimer note. Yes, I see that it is important to discourage theft, but the post already reads “satirical” at the top, and even if it had not, you make clear from your writing that the post is not serious. I think it would have worked better if you had found a way to somehow argue that more convictions of fellow members of a race is somehow advantageous to the thief.

  3. October 7th, 2014 at 19:09 | #3

    Very interesting and funny post. This post does a nice job incorporating the concept of the same-race bias into a satirical, relatable post. As we discussed in class, someone of a different ethnic background than your own feels novice. We have expertise in recognizing people that look like us, or are of the same race as us. In the 2009 Harrison and Hole article, we learned that we are better at recognizing similar faces than dissimilar faces because we have a motivation to recognize people we see often. So, this post is spot on when it says we could get away with something if the people who observed us were us of another race. They would find it harder to identify us.

  4. October 22nd, 2015 at 00:04 | #4

    This was a great and funny post about the own-race bias. In addition to the fact that we are better at recognizing faces of people from our own race, we are also faster at categorizing people of other races than our own. This can further help an exit sign thief escape being caught assuming that an eyewitness is of another race. If we are fast as categorizing others into an “other” group, we may quickly put the characteristics of that group onto that person. This could cause confusion between the features of the thief and the general characteristics of the thief’s race, similar to what Osborn and Davies (2013) found. On top of that, we discussed in class that describing a person’s face makes someone less likely to recognize that face later in what is known as verbal overshadowing. Therefore, if the eyewitness describes the thief to security, if shown pictures of possible suspects based on the physical description, it is unlikely that he will still be able to identify who he saw.

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