Are two views better than one? Investigating three-quarter view facial composites



Ness H, Hancock PJB, Bowie L, Bruce V & Pike G (2015) Are two views better than one? Investigating three-quarter view facial composites. Journal of Forensic Practice, 17 (4), pp. 291-306.;

Purpose -The introduction of a new three-quarter-view female database in PROfit has enabled a careful consideration of view effects in facial composite construction. This article formally examines the impact of constructing full-face and three-quarter view composites under different encoding conditions. It also examines three-quarter view composites that have been automatically generated. Finally, this article investigates whether there is an identification benefit for presenting a full-face and three-quarter composite together.  Design/methodology/approach - The paper presents results from three experiments that examine the impact of encoding conditions on composite construction as well as the presentation of composites at the evaluation stage.  Findings - The results revealed that while standard full-face composites perform well when all views of the face have been encoded, care should be taken when a person has only seen one view. When a witness has seen a side view of a suspect, a three-quarter-view composite should be constructed. In addition, it would be beneficial for a witness to construct two composites of a suspect, one in full-face view and one in a three-quarter-view, particularly when the witness has only seen one view.  Research limitations/implications - This is the first study to examine viewpoint in facial composite construction. While a great deal of research has examined viewpoint dependency in face recognition tasks, composite construction is a reconstruction task involving both recall and recognition. The results indicate that there is a viewpoint effect that is similar to that described in the recognition literature. However, more research is needed in this area.  Practical implications - The practical implications of this research are that it is extremely important for facial composite operators in the field (police operators) to know who will make a good likeness of the target. Research such as this which examines real-life issues is incredibly important. This research shows that if a witness has seen all views of a perpetrator's face then standard composite construction using a full-face view will work well. However, if they have only seen a single view then it will not.  Originality/value - No research to date has examined the impact of viewpoint in facial composite construction.

facial composite; three-quarter view; viewpoint; PROfit; eyewitness memory; forensic cognition

Journal of Forensic Practice: Volume 17, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2015
Publication date online2015
Date accepted by journal28/04/2015
PublisherEmerald Insight
Publisher URL…JFP-10-2014-0040

People (1)


Professor Peter Hancock

Professor Peter Hancock

Professor, Psychology