Constructing identifiable composite faces: the importance of cognitive alignment of interview and construction procedure

Faye C. Skelton, Charlie D. Frowd, Peter J.B. Hancock, Helen S. Jones, Benedict C. Jones, Cristina Fodarella, Kirsty Battersby, Karen Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


We investigated the impact of congruency between the witness interview and method used to construct a composite face. Experiment 1, using a typical feature-by-feature composite method, revealed that aligning cognitive processes during interview and face construction enhanced the effectiveness of composites compared with composites produced following unaligned (incongruent) procedures. Experiment 2 revealed that incorporating character judgments in the witness interview substantially enhanced identification of featurebased composites when constructing the central (internal) features first, suggesting that such judgments focus attention on this region of the face. Experiment 3 explored alignment of processes using an approach based on an evolutionary algorithm, a method requiring witnesses to create a composite by selecting from arrays based on the eye-region. A combination of character judgments, first for the whole face and then for the eye region, led to best-identified composites. Overall, results indicate that more effective composites are produced when both interview and construction procedures are aligned cognitively. Results are discussed with relevance to the theory of transfer-appropriate processing (Morris, Bransford, & Franks, 1977).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2019


  • facial composites
  • interview
  • police
  • witnesses


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