Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Facial Composite Systems Falling Short

Date:
February 11, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
The mention of facial composites often conjures up images of a sinister criminal, skillfully depicted by a sketch artist using pencil and paper. In reality, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies use mechanized methods, usually computer software, when creating facial composite. By having a vast repertoire of eyes, ears, hair and so on at their disposal, witnesses have the ability to create an image that ideally encompasses all of the features of the perpetrator. So have these technological advances improved our ability to identify and apprehend criminals? Gary Wells and Lisa Hasels of Iowa State University say "no."

The mention of facial composites often conjures up images of a sinister criminal, skillfully depicted by a sketch artist using pencil and paper. In reality, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies use mechanized methods, usually computer software, when creating facial composite. By having a vast repertoire of eyes, ears, hair and so on at their disposal, witnesses have the ability to create an image that ideally encompasses all of the features of the perpetrator. So have these technological advances improved our ability to identify and apprehend criminals? Gary Wells and Lisa Hasels of Iowa State University say "no."

In an article appearing in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, the authors point to several studies that indicate facial composite systems produce a poor likeness of the intended face. For instance, studies in which individuals attempt to create composites of celebrities have yielded extremely poor results. In one particular study, only 2.8 percent of participants correctly named a well-known celebrity that had been created by other participants using the face-composite software. In a separate study, participants were unable to discriminate composites of their classmates from composites of students at entirely different schools.

According to authors, these poor results are not deficiencies in the software per se but instead a mismatch between how we remember faces and how composites are produced. "Numerous lines of evidence converge on the view that faces are generally processed, stored and retrieved at a holistic level rather than at the level of individual facial features." Ultimately the psychological process of remembering faces may include more complex representations such as multidimensional similarity to other faces or relative sizes and distances of features and so on that are not readily retrieved by memory nor utilized by facial composite software.

The knowledge of holistic processing may be a boon to future face-composite systems that will utilize "whole-face" methods for face recall. Such systems begin by generating a random set of faces and the witness selects the face most similar to their memory of the perpetrator. This will be the "parent" face that yields a set of similar looking faces that are the result of several mutations to the parent face. The witness again makes their choice and the process continues until they can no longer discriminate their options from their memory of perpetrator. Although in its nascent stages, preliminary tests demonstrate whole-face systems to be superior to their traditional composite counterparts.

Attempts to evaluate and improve face composites fit into the larger problem of the criminal justice system, say the authors. Analyses of the first 180 DNA exonerations to occur in the United States revealed that mistaken eyewitness testimony was involved in 75percent of the cases. Guilty suspects may likewise be comforted or encouraged by poor composites poor composites that lead crime investigators towards innocent parties, says Wells. "Imagine the solace of the culprit who sees a composite of his face in the newspaper that looks nothing like his face."

Thus an increasing knowledge of the memory processes involved in facial recognition will help to improve the accuracy of facial composites and ultimately reduce the number of innocent convictions. Simply put, "as the historical and natural home of the science of memory, psychological science has great promise for helping to solve an age-old problem."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Facial Composite Systems Falling Short." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070210170422.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, February 11). Facial Composite Systems Falling Short. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070210170422.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Facial Composite Systems Falling Short." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070210170422.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins