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Visual Attention and Expertise for Forensic Signature Analysis

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Eye tracking was used to measure visual attention of nine forensic document examiners (FDEs) and 12 control subjects on a blind signature comparison trial. Subjects evaluated 32 questioned signatures (16 genuine, eight disguised, and eight forged) which were compared, on screen, with four known signatures of the specimen provider while their eye movements, response times, and opinions were recorded. FDEs' opinions were significantly more accurate than controls, providing further evidence of FDE expertise. Both control and FDE subjects looked at signature features in a very similar way and the difference in the accuracy of their opinions can be accounted for by different cognitive processing of the visual information that they extract from the images. In a separate experiment the FDEs re-examined a reordered set of the same 32 questioned signatures. In this phase each signature was presented for only 100 msec to test if eye movements are relevant in forming opinions; performance significantly dropped, but not to chance levels indicating that the examination process comprises a combination of both global and local feature extraction strategies.

Keywords: cognition; decision making; document examination; eye movement; forensic science

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Handwriting Analysis and Research Laboratory, School of Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia.

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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