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Familiarity effects in the construction of facial composite images using modern software systems.

Frowd, Charlie D; Skelton, Faye C; Butt, Neelam; Hassan, Amal; Fields, Stephen; Hancock, Peter J B


Charlie D Frowd

Neelam Butt

Amal Hassan

Stephen Fields

Peter J B Hancock


We investigate the effect of target familiarity on the construction of facial composites, as used by law-enforcement to locate criminal suspects. Two popular software construction methods were investigated. Participants were shown a target face that was either familiar or unfamiliar to them and constructed a composite of it from memory using a typical ‘feature’ system, involving selection of individual facial-features, or one of the newer ‘holistic’ types, involving repeated selection and breeding from arrays of whole faces. The study found that composites constructed of a familiar face were named more successfully than composites of an unfamiliar face; also, naming of composites of internal and external features were equivalent for unfamiliar targets, but internal features were better named than external features for familiar targets. These findings applied to both systems, although benefit emerged for the holistic type due to more accurate construction of internal features and evidence for a whole-face advantage.


Frowd, C. D., Skelton, F. C., Butt, N., Hassan, A., Fields, S., & Hancock, P. J. B. (2011). Familiarity effects in the construction of facial composite images using modern software systems. Ergonomics, 54, 1147-1158.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2011
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2015
Print ISSN 0014-0139
Electronic ISSN 1366-5847
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Pages 1147-1158
Keywords Facial composite; eyewitness; evolutionary algorithms; facial feature; memory
Public URL
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Familiarity Effects In The Construction Of Facial Composite Images Using Modern Software Systems (182 Kb)

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