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Configural and featural information in facial-composite images

Frowd, Charlie D; Jones, Sharrome; Fodarella, Crsitina; Skelton, Faye C; Fields, Steve; Williams, Anna; Marsh, John E; Thorley, Rachel; Nelson, Laura; Greenwood, Leah; Date, Louisa; Kearley, Kevin; McIntyre, Alex H.; Hancock, Peter J.B.


Charlie D Frowd

Sharrome Jones

Crsitina Fodarella

Steve Fields

Anna Williams

John E Marsh

Rachel Thorley

Laura Nelson

Leah Greenwood

Louisa Date

Kevin Kearley

Alex H. McIntyre

Peter J.B. Hancock


Eyewitnesses are often invited to construct a facial composite, an image created of the person they saw commit a crime that is used by law enforcement to locate criminal suspects. In the current paper, the effectiveness of composite images was investigated from traditional feature systems (E-FIT and PRO-fit), where participants (face constructors) selected individual features to build the face, and a more recent holistic system (EvoFIT), where they ‘evolved’ a composite by repeatedly selecting from arrays of complete faces. Further participants attempted to name these composites when seen as an unaltered image, or when blurred, rotated, linearly stretched or converted to a photographic negative. All of the manipulations tested reduced correct naming of the composites overall except (i) for a low level of blur, for which naming improved for holistic composites but reduced for feature composites, and (ii) for 100% linear stretch, for which a substantial naming advantage was observed. Results also indicated that both featural (facial elements) and configural (feature spacing) information was useful for recognition in both types of composite system, but highly-detailed information was more accurate in the feature-based than the holistic method. The naming advantage of linear stretch was replicated using a forensically more-practical procedure with observers viewing an unaltered ¬composite sideways. The work is valuable to police practitioners and designers of facial-composite systems.


Frowd, C. D., Jones, S., Fodarella, C., Skelton, F. C., Fields, S., Williams, A., …Hancock, P. J. (2014). Configural and featural information in facial-composite images. Science & Justice, 54(3), 215-227.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2013
Online Publication Date Dec 15, 2013
Publication Date 2014-05
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2015
Print ISSN 0015-7368
Electronic ISSN 1355-0306
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Issue 3
Pages 215-227
Keywords Facial composite; Identification; Feature; Configural; Criminal suspects; Crime;
Public URL
Publisher URL


Configural and featural information in facial-composite images. (861 Kb)

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