Police witness identification images: a geometric morphometric analysis



Publication Details

Hayes, S. & Tullberg, C. (2012). Police witness identification images: a geometric morphometric analysis. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57 (6), 1487-1494.


Research into witness identification images typically occurs within the laboratory and involves subjective likeness and recognizability judgments. This study analyzed whether actual witness identification images systematically alter the facial shapes of the suspects described. The shape analysis tool, geometric morphometrics, was applied to 46 homologous facial landmarks displayed on 50 witness identification images and their corresponding arrest photographs, using principal component analysis and multivariate regressions. The results indicate that compared with arrest photographs, witness identification images systematically depict suspects with lowered and medially located eyebrows (p=<0.000001). This was found to occur independently of the Police Artist, and did not occur with composites produced under laboratory conditions. There are several possible explanations for this finding, including any, or all, of the following: The suspect was frowning at the time of the incident, the witness had negative feelings toward the suspect, this is an effect of unfamiliar face processing, the suspect displayed fear at the time of their arrest photograph.

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