Enhancing the effectiveness of facial-composite images using detailed recall of the environmental context (crime scene)

Cognitive Interviewing involves a set of techniques employed by the police to help eyewitnesses recall information about the crime they witnessed.  As part of a six-year programme of research using procedures that emulate police practice as far as possible, we assess the potential benefit of recalling the environmental context (the “crime scene”) to the identification of composites constructed by eyewitnesses (a visual likeness of an offender’s face).


Results reveal that recalling the environment in which a target face had been seen is beneficial to the person constructing a composite of the face.

More specifically, so long as observers have noticed the environment, a more identifiable composite is constructed following detailed recall of the environment both when a traditional-feature based method is used to construct the face and when a newer recognition-based system is employed. The project illustrates the importance of appropriate interviewing techniques for the production of effective forensic evidence.

Project lead: Professor Charlie Frowd

Project staff: Cristina Fodarella

Collaborators and Partners: Dr Simon ChuDr John Marsh and Dr Palwinder Athwal-Kooner

Timeline: 2014 - 


- Development of optimal interviewing procedures for solving crime
- Production of composites in a supervised environment
- Optimisation of techniques that produce the most identifiable composite face

Public Outputs: Fodarella, C., Marsh, J, Chu, S., Athwal-Kooner, P., Wilcock, R., & Frowd, C. D. (2018). Context reinstatement and holistic Interviewing techniques to improve the effectiveness of facial composites. European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL), Turku, Finland, June. 

Please contact Cristina Fodarella or the Project lead for more information.

Further information

Frowd, C. D. (2017). Facial composite systems: Production of an identifiable face.  In M. Bindemann and A. Megreya (Eds.) Face Processing: Systems, Disorders and Cultural Differences (pp. 55 - 86). Nova Science: New York. (Preprint available for download at www.evofit.co.uk/research/)