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Effects of exposure time and cognitive operations on facial identification accuracy: a meta-analysis of two variables associated with initial memory strength

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In the present study, we conducted two separate meta-analyses in order to quantify the influence on facial identification accuracy of two variables related to initial memory strength for an unfamiliar face, specifically, length of exposure at the time of encounter and encoding operations as manipulated via stimulus processing instructions. Proportion correct was significantly higher for longer (M = 0.66) as compared to shorter exposure durations (M = 0.53) and when participants made social judgments of faces (M = 0.75) than when they attended to individual facial features (M = 0.71). The effect of increased exposure time was non-linear, with comparable increases exerting a greater effect for relatively short versus relatively long exposures. Neither substantive nor methodological variables were found to moderate the effect of exposure duration, and only date of publication appeared to moderate the effect of encoding operations. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Keywords: cognitive; exposure duration; eyewitness; identification accuracy; memory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,University of Nebraska, Lincoln,NE, USA 2: Department of Psychology,University of Nebraska–Omaha, Omaha,NE, USA 3: Department of Psychology,John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York,NY, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012


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