Does the presentation of multiple facial composites improve suspect identification?



Previous research that has evaluated the accuracy of facial composites has reported low identification rates. Two studies are reported here that consider whether showing more than one composite of the same suspect might improve the rate of identification. Sixteen participant-witnesses saw one of two staged events, each involving a different unfamiliar target. Each participant-witness worked with a police operator to construct a composite of the target they had seen. One, four or eight composites depicting the same target were then shown to individuals familiar with the target. Overall, the results showed that presenting more than one composite increased the rate of identification. In addition, the results of Study 2 suggest that if the police must select just one composite from a number produced by witnesses, then a promising method might be to choose the one which bears most similarity to the other composites in the set. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.