Theoretical and applied evaluations of facial composite systems

Christine Edeburn Koehn, Florida International University


Police often use facial composites during their investigations, yet research suggests that facial composites are generally not effective. The present research included two experiments on facial composites. The first experiment was designed to test the usefulness of the encoding specificity principle for determining when facial composites will be effective. Instructions were used to encourage holistic or featural cues at encoding. The method used to construct facial composites was manipulated to encourage holistic or featural cues at retrieval. The encoding specificity principle suggests that an interaction effect should occur. If the same cues are used at encoding and retrieval, better composites should be constructed than when the cues are not the same. However, neither the expected interaction nor the main effects for encoding and retrieval were significant. The second study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of composites generated by two different facial composite construction systems, E-Fit and Mac-A-Mug Pro. These systems differ in that the E-Fit system uses more sophisticated methods of composite construction and may construct better quality facial composites. A comparison of E-Fit and Mac-A-Mug Pro composites demonstrated that E-Fit composites were of better quality than Mac-A-Mug Pro composites. However, neither E-Fit nor Mac-A-Mug Pro composites were useful for identifying the target person from a photograph lineup. Further, lineup performance was at floor level such that both E-Fit and Mac-A-Mug Pro composites were no more useful than a verbal description. Possible limitations of the studies are discussed, as well as suggestions for future research.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Koehn, Christine Edeburn, "Theoretical and applied evaluations of facial composite systems" (1995). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9544397.