Facial Composite Technology and Eyewitness Identification

Pike, Graham (2024). Facial Composite Technology and Eyewitness Identification. In: Pica, Emily; Ross, David and Pozzulo, Joanna eds. The Impact of Technology on the Criminal Justice System. New York: Routledge, pp. 205–232.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003323112-11


Facial composite technology allows a likeness of a perpetrator to be generated by a witness from memory. Early systems produced low resolution, grayscale images using feature-by-feature construction. Advances in technology enable contemporary systems to produce lifelike images using construction techniques designed to make the most of human cognition. Despite research aimed at developing techniques to improve the accuracy of the composites produced, whether facial composites are an effective tool for generating potential suspects in a criminal investigation is debated by both researchers and practitioners, and their use varies greatly from country to country. Given the potential doubts over their effectiveness, whether composites might contaminate the memory of a witness, making them less accurate at subsequent identification procedures, is an important question. This chapter explores this question, and composite technology more broadly, focusing on the rather equivocal results of psychological research that are as likely to find that composites appear to aid memory as contaminate it. A recent meta-analysis found that creating a composite image does not appear to have any effect on subsequent identification performance, though it is always possible composites might play a role in miscarriages of justice where they are used as part of biased investigative methods.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions