The impact of weapons and unusual objects on the construction of facial composites



Erickson WB, Brown C, Portch E, Lampinen JM, Marsh JE, Fodarella C, Petkovic A, Coultas C, Newby A, Date L, Hancock PJB & Frowd CD (2022) The impact of weapons and unusual objects on the construction of facial composites. Psychology, Crime and Law.

The presence of a weapon in the perpetration of a crime can impede an observer’s ability to describe and/or recognise the person responsible. In the current experiment, we explore whether weapons when present at encoding of a target identity interfere with the construction of a facial composite. Participants encoded an unfamiliar target face seen either on its own or paired with a knife. Encoding duration (10 or 30 s) was also manipulated. The following day, participants recalled the face and constructed a composite of it using a holistic system (EvoFIT). Correct naming of the participants’ composites was found to reduce reliably when target faces were paired with the weapon at 10 s but not at 30 s. These data suggest that the presence of a weapon reduces the effectiveness of facial composites following a short encoding duration. Implications for theory and police practice are discussed.

Facial composite; weapon; EvoFIT; law enforcement

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Psychology, Crime and Law

StatusIn Press
Publication date online20/06/2022
Date accepted by journal10/05/2022
PublisherInforma UK Limited

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Professor Peter Hancock

Professor Peter Hancock

Professor, Psychology