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Whole-face procedures for recovering facial images from memory.

Frowd, Charlie D; Skelton, Faye C; Hepton, Gemma; Holden, Laura; Minahil, Simra; Pitchford, Melanie; McIntyre, Alex H; Brown, Charity; Hancock, Peter J B


Charlie D Frowd

Gemma Hepton

Laura Holden

Simra Minahil

Melanie Pitchford

Charity Brown

Peter J B Hancock


Research has indicated that traditional methods for accessing facial memories usually yield unidentifiable images. Recent research, however, has made important improvements in this area to the witness interview, method used for constructing the face and recognition of finished composites. Here, we investigated whether three of these improvements would produce even-more recognisable images when used in conjunction with each other. The techniques are holistic in nature: they involve processes which operate on an entire face. Forty participants first inspected an unfamiliar target face. Nominally 24 hours later, they were interviewed using a standard type of cognitive interview (CI) to recall the appearance of the target, or an enhanced ‘holistic’ interview where the CI was followed by procedures for focussing on the target’s character. Participants then constructed a composite using EvoFIT, a recognition-type system that requires repeatedly selecting items from face arrays, with ‘breeding’, to ‘evolve’ a composite. They either saw faces in these arrays with blurred external features, or an enhanced method where these faces were presented with masked external features. Then, further participants attempted to name the composites, first by looking at the face front-on, the normal method, and then for a second time by looking at the face side-on, which research demonstrates facilitates recognition. All techniques improved correct naming on their own, but together promoted highly-recognisable composites with mean naming at 74% correct. The implication is that these techniques, if used together by practitioners should substantially increase the detection of suspects using this forensic method of person identification.


Frowd, C. D., Skelton, F. C., Hepton, G., Holden, L., Minahil, S., Pitchford, M., …Hancock, P. J. B. (2013). Whole-face procedures for recovering facial images from memory. Science & Justice, 53, 89-97.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 19, 2012
Online Publication Date Jan 14, 2013
Publication Date 2013-06
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2015
Print ISSN 0015-7368
Electronic ISSN 1355-0306
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Pages 89-97
Keywords Facial composite; Holistic face-processing; Interview; Witness; Face recognition;
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