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Reevaluating the role of verbalisation of faces for composite production: Descriptions of offenders matter!

Brown, C., Portch, E., Nelson, L. and Frowd, C.D., 2020. Reevaluating the role of verbalisation of faces for composite production: Descriptions of offenders matter! Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 26 (2), 248-265.

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Brown Portch Nelson Frowd VO JEPA ACCEPTED for repository a.pdf - Accepted Version
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DOI: 10.1037/xap0000251


Standard forensic practice necessitates that a witness describes an offender’s face prior to constructing a visual likeness, a facial composite. However, describing a face can interfere with face recognition, although a delay between description and recognition theoretically should alleviate this issue. In Experiment 1, participants produced a free recall description either 3-4 hours or 2 days after intentionally or incidentally encoding a target face, and then constructed a composite using a modern ‘feature’ system immediately or after 30-minutes. Unexpectedly, correct naming of composites significantly reduced following the 30-minute delay between description and construction for targets encoded 2 days previously. In, Experiment 2, participants in these conditions gave descriptions that were better matched to their targets by independent judges, a result which suggests that the 30-minute delay actually impairs access to details of recalled descriptions that are valuable for composite effectiveness. Experiment 3 found the detrimental effect of description delay extended to composites constructed from a ‘holistic’ face production system. The results have real-world but counterintuitive implications for witnesses who construct a face one or two days after a crime: after having recalled the face to a practitioner, an appreciable delay (here, 30 minutes) should be avoided before starting face construction.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Facial composite; witness, victim; facial descriptions; verbal overshadowing; retention interval; encoding instructions
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:33133
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:10 Dec 2019 15:23
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:18


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