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Improving the quality of facial composites using a holistic cognitive interview

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Vicki Bruce


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Witnesses to and victims of serious crime are normally asked to describe the appearance of a criminal suspect, using a Cognitive Interview (Cl), and to construct,I facial composite, a visual representation of the face. Research suggests that focusing on the global aspects of a face, as opposed to its facial features, facilitates recognition and improves composite quality: also, that the CI enables more effective use of a composite system. The current study evaluated a novel "holistic" Cognitive Interview (H-CI). This comprised a descriptive phase, using a CI, followed by a recognition-enhancing phase, involving the attribution of seven holistic properties. Participant-witnesses watched a video of a target, then 3 to 4 hours later received either a CI or an H-Cl and constructed a single composite with a standard system, PRO-fit. Composites constructed after the H-CI were correctly named more than four times as often as those after the Cl, attributable to an improvement in the quality of both the internal and external parts of the face. In police work, the H-Cl offers the possibility of substantially improving the identification of criminal suspects.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Frowd CD, Bruce V, Smith AJ, Hancock PJB

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied

Year: 2008

Volume: 14

Issue: 3

Pages: 276-287

ISSN (print): 1076-898X

ISSN (electronic): 1939-2192

Publisher: American Psychological Association


DOI: 10.1037/1076-898X.14.3.276

Notes: Citations: 67


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