The Effect of Facial Composite Construction on Eyewitness Identification Accuracy in an Ecologically Valid Paradigm

Pike, Graham E.; Brace, Nicola A.; Turner, Jim and Vredeveldt, Annelies (2019). The Effect of Facial Composite Construction on Eyewitness Identification Accuracy in an Ecologically Valid Paradigm. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 46(2) pp. 319–336.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854818811376

Abstract

Previous research has produced equivocal results with regard to whether facial composite creation affects subsequent eyewitness identification accuracy, but the most widely publicized view is that creating a composite impairs the ability to later recognize the perpetrator from a line-up. In our first experiment, we examined this effect using several ecologically valid elements including a live staged crime, trained police officers, and a long delay between construction and identification, albeit with only a short delay between crime and composite construction. Composite construction did not significantly affect line-up identification accuracy. Experiment 2 replicated this result using a laboratory-based design and sequential line-up task, eliminating the possibly confounding effect of differential levels of motivation and relative judgments. Taken together, the experiments suggest composite creation may not negatively impact subsequent line-up accuracy, regardless of whether an ecologically valid method or more standard laboratory testing was used.

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