Remembering Faces

Authored by: Vicki Bruce , Mike Burton , Peter Hancock

Handbook of Eyewitness Psychology

Print publication date:  October  2006
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9780805881073
eBook ISBN: 9781315805535
Adobe ISBN: 9781317777830


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This handbook is about eyewitness psychology. The eyewitness to a crime is notoriously poor at being able to recognize or reconstruct—using composites—the faces of people seen at the crime. Yet our everyday lives are characterized by successful recognition and identification of people we know. Recent research has helped us to understand the paradox that we are both remarkably good (when people are familiar) and dramatically poor (when people are unfamiliar) at recognizing faces. In this chapter we review the evidence for the distinction between unfamiliar and familiar face recognition, and consider both the theoretical and practical implications of this distinction. At a theoretical level, we suggest a simple model of the process of familiarization, which could account for the apparently qualitative differences in processing that arise from familiarity. At a practical level, we consider the implications of our research for the identification of suspects, particularly when CCTV images are available to assist with identification.

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