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An Insight into Forensic Document Examiner Expertise for Discriminating Between Forged and Disguised Signatures

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It has previously been shown that forensic document examiners (FDEs) have expertise in providing opinions about whether questioned signatures are genuine or simulated. This study extends the exploration of FDE expertise by evaluating the performance of eight FDEs and 12 control subjects at identifying signatures as either forgeries or the disguised writing of a specimen provider. Subject eye movements and response times were recorded with a Tobii 1750 eye tracker during the signature evaluations. Using a penalty scoring system, FDEs performed significantly better than control subjects (t = 2.465, p = 0.024), with one FDE able to correctly call 13 of the 16 test stimuli (and three inconclusive calls). An analysis of eye movement search patterns by the subjects indicated that a very similar search strategy was employed by both groups, suggesting that visual inspection of signatures is mediated by a bottom up search strategy. However, FDEs spent greater than 50% longer to make a decision than the control group. The findings are suggestive that for some stimuli FDEs can discriminate between forgeries and disguises, and that this ability is due to a careful inspection and consideration of multiple features within a signature.
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Keywords: cognition; decision making; document examination; eye movement; forensic science; handwriting

Document Type: Research Article

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

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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