The Impact of Weapons and Unusual Objects on the Construction of Facial Composites

Erickson, William Blake, Brown, Charity, Portch, Emily, Lampinen, James M, Marsh, John Everett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9494-1287, Fodarella, Cristina orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5551-3450, Petkovic, Anna, Coultas, Carly, Newby, Amanda et al (2022) The Impact of Weapons and Unusual Objects on the Construction of Facial Composites. Psychology, Crime & Law .

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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 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 seconds) 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 seconds but not at 30 seconds. These data suggest that the presence of a weapon reduces the effectiveness of facial composites following short encoding duration. Implications for theory and police practice are discussed.

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