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Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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1 Describing a face

Figure 1

In some crime cases, the only lead that the police have is a witness’s memory of the perpetrator. The description obtained by the police from the witness can then be publicised and/or used for the purposes of a computer search of a database containing photographic images. If this process does lead to the identification of a suspect, then an identification procedure (such as a line-up) usually takes place.

The crucial question is: what is the best way to obtain the image the witness has in their memory of the face of the perpetrator? While words can be used to describe information about the body, our vocabulary is rather limited when it comes to conveying the physical aspects of the face.

Activity 1 Famous face

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

To see how difficult it can be to describe a face, trying describing the face of someone famous to a friend or family member. Remember that you can only describe their face and must not mention anything else about them.

In trying to verbally describe a face, or reading the descriptions others have posted, try to think about the problems you experience.