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Eyewitness evidence: contributions from face recognition research

Weston, Nicola Jane and Perfect, Timothy J. 2008. Eyewitness evidence: contributions from face recognition research. Presented at: European Society for Criminology Conference, Edinburgh, UK, September 2008.

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The inclusion of witnesses in criminal investigations is imperative to the process, however research has shown that eyewitness testimony is highly malleable. One line of evidence for this has shown that providing a verbal description prior to identification can impair an individuals’ ability to recognise a suspect (Schooler & Engstler-Schooler, 1990); termed the Verbal Overshadowing Effect (VOE). Whilst reliable, replications of the effect are determined by a host of intervening factors. Despite this, explanations of the VOE inadvertently encompass an understanding of face recognition per se. For example, one explanation is such that verbal description creates a focus on easily described features of a face; a process that reduces access to more configural information required for accurate face recognition (Schooler et al, 1997). The idea that information can be transferred from one task to another exposes the opportunity for the introduction of techniques that can enhance face recognition within this context. One such technique used in the literature is the Navon Letter Task (Navon, 1977). Whilst the focus of verbal description was on the impairment of face recognition accuracy, the Navon task provided a situation in which accuracy from a line-up could be improved (e.g. Macrae & Lewis, 2002). Subsequent studies have shown this task to interact with recognition accuracy in a number of contexts. Given the complexities of face recognition it is not yet clear how the findings can translate into practical advancements, however the implications of this research for eyewitness identifications is evident.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
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Last Modified: 20 Mar 2016 22:35

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