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Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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1.3 Make a famous face

Figure 4

Find out just how difficult it is to create a face one feature at a time.

If you can, try to recreate the face of someone famous using PhotoFit Me [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] – an online photofit system available on OpenLearn.

Try creating a face and asking others if they can work out who it is. Remember that when a witness is creating a composite image as part of an investigation they have to rely completely on their memory.

Obviously it would be very easy for you to find a picture of your chosen celebrity and create your PhotoFit Me image while looking at this picture. If you would rather do that, then that’s fine, but please try to create an image entirely from memory first, as this will give you an insight into just how difficult it is to remember and picture a face in your mind. Rather than revealing the identity of your celebrity when naming your PhotoFit Me image, state instead whether you made it entirely from memory of from a picture.

When you have finished making your PhotoFit Me image, feel free to send it to your friends using the social media buttons. Remember to add the hashtag #OLforensic if you are posting your image on Twitter or Facebook, so that other learners on the course can find it.

Look through the images created by others via the #OLforensic hashtag, and see whether you think those done from a picture are any better than those done from memory – you might be surprised!

In constructing your image, you may well have found two basic problems:

  1. you could not use your memory of that person to picture their individual features in your mind
  2. even if you had an idea of what the feature looked like, you were unable to find a suitable example in the system.

Research on Photofit reached very similar conclusions. However, even though newer composite systems included more examples of individual features, they could not overcome the first problem, which is that Photofit requires witnesses to do something that their memories are just not designed to do.