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The benefit of context for facial-composite construction

Skelton, Faye C; Frowd, Charlie D; Speers, Kathryn E


Charlie D Frowd

Kathryn E Speers


Purpose - The aim of this study was to investigate whether the presence of a whole-face context during facial composite production facilitates construction of facial composite images.
Design/Methodology - In Experiment 1, constructors viewed a celebrity face and then developed a facial composite using PRO-fit in one of two conditions: either the full-face was visible while facial features were selected, or only the feature currently being selected was visible. The composites were named by different participants. We then replicated the study using a more forensically-valid procedure: In Experiment 2 non-football fans viewed an image of a premiership footballer and 24 hours later constructed a composite of the face with a trained software operator. The resulting composites were named by football fans.
Findings - In both studies we found that presence of the facial context promoted more identifiable facial composite images.
Research limitations/implications – Though this study uses current software in an unconventional way, this was necessary to avoid error arising from between-system differences.
Practical implications - Results confirm that composite software should have the whole-face context visible to witnesses throughout construction. Though some software systems do this, there remain others that present features in isolation and these findings show that these systems are unlikely to be optimal.
Originality/value - This is the first study to demonstrate the importance of a full-face context for the construction of facial composite images. Results are valuable to police forces and developers of composite software.


Skelton, F. C., Frowd, C. D., & Speers, K. E. (2015). The benefit of context for facial-composite construction. British Journal of Forensic Practice, 17(4), 281-290.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 9, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2015
Publicly Available Date Oct 10, 2017
Print ISSN 1463-6646
Electronic ISSN 2050-8794
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 4
Pages 281-290
Keywords Facial composites; face recall; facial construction; memory retrieval;
Public URL
Publisher URL


Contextpaper_JFP_revision.doc (459 Kb)

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