Facial comparison behaviour of forensic facial examiners

Claydon, Jacky R.; Fysh, Matthew C.; Prunty, Jonathan E.; Cristino, Filipe; Moreton, Reuben and Bindemann, Markus (2022). Facial comparison behaviour of forensic facial examiners. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 37(1) pp. 6–25.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.4027


Facial examiners make visual comparisons of face images to establish the identities of persons in police investigations. This study utilised eye‐tracking and an individual differences approach to investigate whether these experts exhibit specialist viewing behaviours during identification, by comparing facial examiners with forensic fingerprint analysts and untrained novices across three tasks. These comprised of face matching under unlimited (Experiment 1) and time‐restricted viewing (Experiment 2), and with a feature‐comparison protocol derived from examiner casework procedures (Experiment 3). Facial examiners exhibited individual differences in facial comparison accuracy and did not consistently outperform fingerprint analysts and novices. Their behaviour was also marked by similarities to the comparison groups in terms of how faces were viewed, as evidenced from eye movements, and how faces were perceived, based on the made feature judgements and identification decisions. These findings further understanding of how facial comparisons are performed and clarify the nature of examiner expertise.

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