The effect of facial ageing on forensic facial image comparison

Sexton, Laura; Moreton, Reuben; Noyes, Eilidh; Martinez, Sergio Castro and Laurence, Sarah (2024). The effect of facial ageing on forensic facial image comparison. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 38, article no. e4153.



Facial appearance changes over time as people age. This poses a challenge for individuals working in forensic settings whose role requires them to match the identity of face images. The present research aimed to determine how well an international sample of forensic facial examiners could match faces with a substantial age gap. We tested a sample of 60 facial examiners, 23 professional teams, and 81 untrained control participants. Participants matched pairs of photographs with a 10–30‐year age gap between the images. Participants also estimated the ages of the faces. On the matching task, individual professionals, and teams outperformed controls and made fewer high confidence errors. On the age estimation task, there was no advantage for professionals relative to controls. Our results suggest that forensic facial examiners can tolerate substantial age differences between adult faces when performing comparisons, but this advantage does not extend to accurate age estimation.

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