Can training improve eyewitness identification?: the effect of internal feature focus on memory for faces

Evidence suggests that individuals rely on external features such as hair and face shape when processing and recognising unfamiliar faces. This is problematic in a forensic setting because hairstyle can be changed easily. In two studies we examined whether training individuals to focus more on the s...

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Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Paterson, Helen M. (Author)
Other Authors: Calderwood, Clare (Author); Kemp, Richard I.; Luppino, Daniella; MacDougall, Hamish G.; Taubert, Jessica
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2017
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2017, Volume: 23, Issue: 10, Pages: 927-945
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Evidence suggests that individuals rely on external features such as hair and face shape when processing and recognising unfamiliar faces. This is problematic in a forensic setting because hairstyle can be changed easily. In two studies we examined whether training individuals to focus more on the stable, internal features of the face (e.g. eyes, nose and mouth) and hence less on the changeable external features would improve identification accuracy. In Study 1, participants were instructed to focus on: (1) internal features, (2) external features, or (3) both internal and external features. Participants’ eye movements were monitored while they studied target faces, which they later tried to identify from an array that included the target with a changed appearance. In Study 2, participants were instructed to focus on: (1) internal features, (2) external features, or (3) given no instructions. Participants were required to identify target faces from line-ups, where they were presented either unchanged or with an altered hairstyle. Results suggested that training individuals to attend to internal features of unfamiliar faces may improve identification accuracy in the common situation where external features have changed between presentation and identification. However, internal feature focus may decrease identification accuracy when external features are unchanged.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1346099