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Training of eyewitnesses

Stolle, D. P., Wexler, D. B., & Winick, B. J. (Eds.). (2000).
Practicing therapeutic jurisprudence: Law as a helping
profession. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Wexler, D. B. (1990). Therapeutic jurisprudence: The law
as a therapeutic agent. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic
Wexler, D. B., & Winick, B. J. (Eds.). (1996). Law in a
therapeutic key: Developments in therapeutic
jurisprudence. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Winick, B. J., & Wexler, D. B. (Eds.). (2003). Judging in a
therapeutic key: Therapeutic jurisprudence and the
courts. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
The ability to accurately recognize others is important
to everyone, particularly because important social,
personal, physical, and economic resources are
uniquely associated with individual persons. The
recognition training that most people experience
comes with everyday social interaction, containing the
incentives within their social environment. The ecol-
ogy of personal recognition and the social-cognitive
processes through which it develops have hardly been
studied, and the social conditions under which some
persons might become more accurate recognizers than
others are largely unknown. Attempts to improve face
recognition through short-term training focused on
changing the attributes of faces that participants
attend to or use in encoding facial information have
largely proved ineffective.
There are social environments in which higher
recognition performance levels would be very valuable.
These are most commonly environments in which indi-
viduals to be recognized or identified have committed
some crime and need to be apprehended. For example,
persons at risk as victims due to their employment
(bank tellers, convenience store clerks) might benefit
from being capable of high recognition performance
levels. Law enforcement, military, or intelligence per-
sonnel likewise would benefit from higher levels of
recognition capability than the general public. For this
reason, developing effective training in face recognition
has real practical utility. Unfortunately, the available
evidence is not encouraging: There is little evidence
that persons of any occupational group are reliably bet-
ter or worse at recognizing faces than others. Research
conducted with law enforcement officers suggests that
they are no better than other citizens in face recognition
accuracy; however, officers have been shown to per-
form better at recalling the details of an event.
Research on face recognition training also has theo-
retical utility because of the need to better understand
the basic cognitive and social psychological processes
that form the basis for training. While face recognition
processes have been shown to involve both featural and
holistic components, few studies have been directed at
using these aspects of face recognition to improve
recognition. We know that elaborated or inferential pro-
cessing of faces leads to higher levels of recognition
performance, and it appears that such processing is the
default mode. Instructing participants to attend nar-
rowly to specific features causes their recognition per-
formance to suffer. Some studies show that attempts to
change or refine the facial information research partic-
ipants extract at the point of encoding can lead to
reduced recognition performance. This may result from
attempting to substitute new memory strategies based
on relatively short training experiences for encoding
and recognition strategies that are based on a lifetime of
practice. There is growing evidence that we develop
selective processing of faces very early in life and that
this processing is selective for our own “race” (or that
which is experienced early).
A deficit in face recognition accuracy has been
shown when people attempt to recognize faces of other
“races.” Known as the cross-race effect, studies have
consistently shown the deficit in recognition across a
variety of races, ethnicities, and nationalities. A few
studies have attempted to train individuals in order to
improve their ability to make accurate cross-race identi-
fications; however, the studies have shown limited suc-
cess, demonstrating that training effects are at best
temporary and inconsistent. The methods used to train
in face recognition have varied immensely since the
early 1970s. For instance, one of the first training studies
administered electrical shock following an incorrect
recognition judgment. After only 1 hour of training, the
shock feedback improved recognition performance.
Effects of training over longer intervals were not exam-
ined. Another study trained participants to focus on crit-
ical facial features that were believed to differ between
White and Black faces. Once again, participants showed
immediate improvement in their face recognition abil-
ity; however, these effects diminished after the passage
of 1 week. More recent research has focused on
“feature-critical training” using INDSCAL (INdividual
Differences SCALing software) analyses of the phys-
iognomic differences between certain races. Results
suggested that such training improved cross-race face
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recognition; however, once again there was no indica-
tion of the persistence of the improvement or whether
the improvement could be generalized across faces
within that race. It is unclear at this juncture whether or
not systematic training can, or ever will, reduce or elim-
inate the cross-race effect.
Natural experience (or the lack thereof) appears to be
the basis for the cross-race effect, and studies of the
effects of changing environments over a period of years
(e.g., residential school experience) support this, as do
studies of the effects of high levels of interest in sports
where many of the outstanding performers are of a
“racial” group contrasting with the “racial” group mem-
bership of many fans. Fans investing large amounts of
time in watching the sport and who have a high level of
detailed knowledge about the players show a reduced
level of the cross-race effect. It is thought that social
incentives and penalties exist for successful recognition
and recognition errors or omissions, respectively. As
good an idea as this might be, manipulating incentives
as a training technique has not been studied.
Given the general failure in training individuals to
improve their recognition of faces, a current move-
ment among researchers has involved developing
computer-based recognition algorithms. A number of
procedures have been developed to use information
from facial images to match one instance of a person
to another of the same individual, under different con-
ditions. Great progress has been made in this line of
research, and it has now been shown that face recog-
nition algorithms can be superior to human face
recognition even under previously troublesome condi-
tions, such as differences in illumination and shadow
between the two photos to be matched. In addition,
fusing the use of computer-image-processing algo-
rithms with human similarity judgments leads to near-
perfect recognition. Nevertheless, the problem of
extracting accurate identifications from human mem-
ory remains. While human judgments have led to
improvements in computer-based face recognition,
computer-based support systems using genetic algo-
rithms have been shown to provide effective assis-
tance in human recognition.
Overall, training the human cognitive system to
achieve higher levels of face recognition performance
is an important goal, with only modest advances hav-
ing been achieved.
Roy S. Malpass, Kyle J. Susa,
and Christian A. Meissner
See also Cross-Race Effect in Eyewitness Identification;
Expert Psychological Testimony on Eyewitness
Identification; Police as Eyewitnesses
Further Readings
Malpass, R. S. (1981). Training in face recognition. In
G. M. Davies, H. D. Ellis, & J. W. Shepherd (Eds.),
Perceiving and remembering faces (pp. 271–285).
London: Academic Press.
O’Toole, A. J., Abdi, H., Jiang, F., & Phillips, P. J. (2006).
Fusing individual algorithms and humans improves face
recognition accuracy. In G. Bebis, R. Boyle, D. Koracin,
B. Parvin, P. Remagnino, A. Nefian, et al. (Eds.),
Advances in visual computing (pp. 447–456). Berlin:
O’Toole, A. J., Abdi, H., Jiang, F., & Phillips, P. J. (in press).
Fusing face recognition algorithms and humans. IEEE:
Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics.
As society becomes increasingly more diverse cultur-
ally and linguistically, translated testimony will
become a more frequent component of the American
justice system. Due to the complex nature of the trans-
lation process, errors and misunderstandings of inter-
preted testimony are nearly unavoidable and can
affect jurors’perceptions of a trial. Misjudgments may
occur due to the inadvertent influences of the court
interpreter or jurors’ biased perceptions of a defen-
dant’s translated testimony. Psychological theories
related to individuals’ social identity and the human
propensity to categorize other people as members of
one’s in-group or out-group may provide a framework
for understanding the potential biasing nature of trans-
lated testimony. The implications for law and policy
provided by research pertaining to translated testi-
mony are vital for the fair and impartial treatment of
all people within the U.S. justice system.
From the perspective of courts in the United States,
the official language of courtroom proceedings is
808———Translated Testimony
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