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Constructing identifiable composite faces: The importance of cognitive alignment of interview and construction procedure

Skelton, Faye C.; Frowd, Charlie D.; Hancock, Peter J. B.; Jones, Helen S.; Jones, Benedict C.; Fodarella, Cristina; Battersby, Kirsty; Logan, Karen


Charlie D. Frowd

Peter J. B. Hancock

Helen S. Jones

Benedict C. Jones

Cristina Fodarella

Kirsty Battersby

Karen Logan


We investigated the impact of congruency between the witness interview and method used to construct a composite face. Experiment 1, using a typical feature-by-feature composite method, revealed that aligning cognitive processes during interview and face construction enhanced the effectiveness of composites compared with composites produced following unaligned (incongruent) procedures. Experiment 2 revealed that incorporating character judgements in the witness interview substantially enhanced identification of feature-based composites when constructing the central (internal) features first, suggesting that such judgements focus attention on this region of the face. Experiment 3 explored alignment of processes using an approach based on an evolutionary algorithm, a method requiring witnesses to create a composite by selecting from arrays based on the eye-region. A combination of character judgements, first for the whole face and then for the eye region, led to best-identified composites. Overall, results indicate that more effective composites are produced when both interview and construction procedures are aligned cognitively. Results are discussed with relevance to the theory of transfer-appropriate processing (Morris, Bransford, & Franks, 1977).

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 25, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 25, 2019
Publication Date 2020-09
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2019
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Print ISSN 1076-898X
Electronic ISSN 1939-2192
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 3
Pages 507-521
Keywords Facial composites, interview, police, witnesses
Public URL
Publisher URL


Constructing Identifiable Composite Faces: The Importance Of Cognitive Alignment Of Interview And Construction Procedure (AM) (433 Kb)

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