Self-administered procedures for constructing identifiable facial composites

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: Claire Ford

Collaborators and Partners: Dr Emma Threadgold

Timeline: 2018 - 


- Development of systems for solving volume (less serious) crime
- Production of composites in a supervised environment
- Optimisation of techniques that produce the most identifiable composite face

Public Outputs: Martin, A. J., Hancock, P. J. B., Frowd, C. D., Heard, P., Gaskin, E., Ford, C., & Hewitt, T. (2018). EvoFIT composite face construction via practitioner interviewing and a witness-administered protocol. In G. Howells et al. (Eds.) Proceedings of 12th NASA / ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems, 6th - 9th August, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

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