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The importance of detailed context reinstatement for the production of identifiable composite faces from memory

Fodarella, Cristina; Marsh, John E.; Chu, Simon; Athwal-Kooner, Palwinder; Jones, Helen S.; Skelton, Faye C.; Wood, Ellena; Jackson, Elizabeth; Frowd, Charlie D.


Cristina Fodarella

John E. Marsh

Simon Chu

Palwinder Athwal-Kooner

Helen S. Jones

Ellena Wood

Elizabeth Jackson

Charlie D. Frowd


Memory is facilitated by reflecting upon, or revisiting, the environment in which information was encoded. We investigated these “context reinstatement” (CR) techniques to improve the effectiveness of facial composites – visual likenesses of a perpetrator’s face constructed by eyewitnesses. Participant-constructors viewed a face and, after a one-day-delay, revisited (Physical CR) or recalled the environmental context (Mental/Detailed CR) before recalling the face and constructing an EvoFIT or a PRO-fit composite. Detailed CR increased correct naming of ensuing composites, but only when participant-constructors suitably encoded the environment. Detailed CR was also effective when combined with another interviewing technique (Holistic-Cognitive Interview), with focus on a target’s character; it was no more effective prompting constructors to engage in greater environmental recall. Analyses indicate that the Detailed CR advantage was mediated by an increase in face recall. Results are applicable by forensic practitioners to aid eyewitness memory, thereby potentially increasing suspect identification and subsequent arrest rates.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 2, 2021
Publication Date Mar 16, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 15, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2021
Journal Visual Cognition
Print ISSN 1350-6285
Electronic ISSN 1464-0716
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 180-200
Keywords Context reinstatement, facial composites, EvoFIT, PRO-fit, Holistic-Cognitive Interview
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The Importance Of Detailed Context Reinstatement For The Production Of Identifiable Composite Faces From Memory (2.1 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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